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 🙂

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Thanks to LMFAO, I have been feeling sexy these days for many reasons.  Not because I’m high on testosterone and that I am horny, but because many wonderful things have happened since the last time I wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February started a bit on the sour note for me.  I became occupied with research and teaching, especially on grading weekly quizzes…but I still go to the gym and play volleyball.  The broomball season was actually short since this winter has been warmer than usual, and water has been seeping through ice on the lakes. 

On the evening of 13 Feb (which is the morning of Valentine’s Day in Taipei), I received news that my dear grandma (from my mother’s side) passed away that morning in Taiwan.  This brought a new meaning to the fourteenth day of February for me, and I was feeling awful for weeks since then.  Even my faculty advisor and the coordinator of the course I teach noticed that I was not myself at all.  I only shared this news with close friends and co-workers around then, and I have been in close contact with my parents and brother as well.  ‘Twas interesting since my grandma has been an amazing lady in my life who taught me many things ranging from portraying beauty to the world, showing care to others around you, and staying strong and being happy during the worst of times…She was unconscious and in pain, and she reunited with the grandpa I never saw since birth on a special day.  I became more and more open-minded after a few days instead of burrowing myself constantly in grief since she did live to the old age of ninety-one.  Although I could not attend the funeral in Taipei, I made a recording of myself singing Schubert’s Ave Maria with my cheap digital camera and sent it home.  It will be played during the funeral on Monday, 27 Feb.  My grandma would always applaud and cheer when I sing to her, and I remember that tears streamed across her cheeks when I sang to her last May when I went back home for the urgent two-week visit.  Although she was a vegetable, she would shake when I held her and even wiggle a bit as if she would want to talk to me.  I just hope that the song sang from my heart will be a good send-off for her since her baptismal name is Maria.  I still carry the photo of her and me and would glance at it each day, and I will definitely not forget her.

The Taiwanese custom is that relatives of the deceased will have to abstain from parties, visits to people’s houses, celebrations, and other large-scale joyful/social events.  Interestingly, this period coincides with Lent for me.  Before the incidence, I made plans to grab drinks with co-TAs and friends, to meet and socialize with prospective students of my program through drinks and potlucks, and more…it felt awkward to cancel all those plans, which included telling some curious folks the reason of my absence.  However, most of them were understanding.  Some, such as my professor, the coordinator of the course I teach, and the coordinator of my program, shared their grief and would share their experiences with me too.  Due to limitations in parties and such, this is why I am giving up alcohol for Lent.  It can be healthier for me, and that opens more opportunities for me to go to the gym, walk or bike around town, and keep myself active.  This period also made me closer to my family too, and I am grateful for that.

Throughout this period, I still interact with great friends.  I bumped into Jordan a few days ago, and I remember him as a scrawny kid two years ago when we took a course together.  He is still tall, but perhaps more muscular and mature, and I was surprised that he is still in Madison.  He declined an offer to go to medical school and found passion in teaching and parasitology.  Therefore, he is tutoring students through the Department of Zoology and is working in a company while applying for public health programs in different universities.  I also bumped into many former students, such as Alex the ATP guy, Logan (whom I wrote a letter of recommendation), Stephan (who just got engaged), and Jenn (a great mom and soldier).

Michael, one of my co-TAs, has been amazing since January.  He started as a newbie for teaching who avoided any courses and opportunities for public speaking in the past…He did not do that well during his first week and eventually broke down in tears, but he became a different person the following week and has been doing a brilliant job in standing and delivering.  He became more confident, although he would still say that he is nervous and that the students are plain stupid (he took this course a loooong time ago and got an A without trying too hard, and there are tons of students who have been getting poor scores and cannot organize thoughts or reason through things)…but he is a great guy to talk to one-on-one.  He is funny and great to talk to, and he became a great friend.  I guess that we have been encouraging one another in little ways.  On Mardi Gras, I bought students donuts from Greenbush Bakery and saved one for him since he mentioned that Mardi Gras was his most favorite holiday with hurricanes and parties and that I knew that he would be stopping by the building when I was teaching.  After teaching, I noticed that he was selling like hotcake with five students surrounding him in the TA office, so I dropped off the donut and left.  Who knew that he would run after me and graced me with a red and a blueish green strains of beads?  He is such a funny guy…and he even brought me a huge Snicker’s bar after meeting his wife for dinner prior to proctoring an exam on Thursday.  Speaking of his wife, Michael would describe Brooke in a manner that made me vision her as the one with the whip during S&M play, but I actually meet her on Monday evening, and she was a cute and lovely lady!

At the same time, I still go to Bible study with the same gang and would text and meet-up with my friend Chuck.  I also would text and chat with Matt through gchat, and we went for a walk together after I was done proctoring on Thursday.  We walked around the neighborhood for forty-five minutes to an hour, appreciating the snow and each other’s company.  He has accepted a postdoc position in Detroit since he did not get offered the faculty position at Gonzaga, and I am glad that at least life is not too uncertain for him now.  it turns out that he went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and is giving up alcohol for Lent too!  I gave him a can of beer earlier, and he told me that ’twas still sitting in his fridge due to Lent.  Throughout the walk, he told me about a new bakery in town, and I decided to check it out today.

I walked along State Street and passed by the bakery yesterday, just to notice that ’twas closed although the label and facebook indicated that it should be closed after two hours.  I left, hoping it visit it the next day, and so I dragged myself out of bed to be an early bird who gets baked goods straight out from the oven from Bakers’ Window.  I remembered the label indicating that the bakery would be opened at 8AM…I arrived at 8:30AM, and folks were still setting up things.  Who knew that they actually open at 9?  However, I was offered to enter and purchase goods.  Matt told me about the croissants, and so I purchased some pain au chocolat (with regular croissant being the other option since there were not many other items out from the oven) and was given a wedding cookie for free.  Those chocolate croissants were still hot and just out from the oven, but the bread had some buttery goodness that did not make the croissant too flakey and dry.  It was not too soggy either.  The chocolate was in a generous silky serving, and the pain itself was huge!  That was perhaps the best pain au chocolat I ever have in my life.  Before that, I had great memories of the ones by Cafe Soleil before it closed, but the croissants from there were smaller, the chocolate filling was one single strip in the middle (and could be hard on some days), and also more expensive.  Thanks to Matt, I will definitely pay Bakers’ Window a visit in the near future to try the scones, pies, and other baked goods.

Throughout my interactions with friends, I was also wondering if I should get a new cellphone since I have been eligible to upgrade my phone since last December.  I have one of those free cellphones from Verizon with a keyboard.  ‘Tis handy but I could not use internet and such on it.  I remember when I was crossing Los Angeles back into Las Vegas with a friend three Thanksgivings ago, we were lost and the GPS guided us into a desert area without paved roads but one filled with cacti…which scraped off the tires and ended with a tow truck carrying us back to Las Vegas so I could catch my flight back to Madison.  From then, I noticed that having a technological upgrade could be a plus since I would hope to find routes or maps with a cellphone.  Even my friend Max used his iPhone to search for bus routes when we went to Chicago for the Cubs game two years ago, and ’tis a great tool to search for restaurants and such as well.  However, I could not stand typing an email with a cellphone.  Surfing through the web might be okay and texting friends…but typing a well-written email or an entry like this on a cellphone can be unbearable for me.  When I am outside of my apartment, I also do not constantly use my cellphone since I would love to spend time with the fresh air and scenes around me, so I doubt that I will be facebooking when I am walking on the streets or at work.  I still like to have the feeling of a real keyboard instead of a virtual one.  Plus, while interacting with Matt’s smartphone a while ago, my fingers could be too big for the keys.  I also like the idea of having some apps such as angrybird, but I do not think that I will like the idea of having Grindr on my phone since it can be creepy for people to know where I live…However, Chuck is encouraging me to invest in a Droid RAZR (smartphone) since that is indeed a beauty (I love the Gorilla Glass), and Max has been trying to sell me the idea of getting an iPhone since ages ago.  Therefore, this is pretty much my dilemma: should I get a Droid RAZR, and iPhone, or just stick with the simple but yet functional phone I have now?

So in short, I am doing well and life goes on.  No matter what happens in life–good or bad–I will continue to look forward for the next day while cherishing the present.  I am glad that I did not make anything too regretful at this point; I know that I will not be able to forgive myself if I did not fly back to Taipei last May to see my grandma…and I am still surrounded with the simplest joys and love in life.

Life can be tough with nothing going as smooth as they want them to be.  Our progress could be interfered and delayed by co-workers or people around us, accidents and mistakes happen, people would be late for meetings, you do not hear back from friends when calling or text messaging them, etc.  Sometimes, we are the ones to blame for our own contribution to making life rough, and there are times when there is actually nothing we can do to make the situation better.  As long as we do not think that life is a b*tch and become depressed, we will have the strength to move forward each day with some of the simplest accomplishments and joys.

One of the ways for me to feel better about myself is through exercising.  I spent more than five times a week in the gym, biking around town, and even better during the winter–playing broomball.  The weekly Saturday event is something that I look forward to, or else I would be lazy and stay indoors during the winter.

I was introduced to broomball when I met Joe in my friend Kristina’s Swedish Midsommarfest in summer 2010.  Joe told me about a group of folks (at least a year or two older than me who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, people who were from Monroe in the same high school, elementary school teachers, or those from other places that are working in Madison) hitting a soccer ball as a hockey puck with a broom on the icy lake with sneakers or boots, and it immediately captured my attention.  I reconnected with Joe in early 2011 and soon began playing broomball since that February…I met many wonderful folks such as Dusty (the Godfather or the one who used to be in charge but is now in Florida), Justin, Adam, Brandon, Liz, Karam,…just to name a few.  I also met new folks each week and even one of my former students!  The group was a bunch of nice and encouraging folks, and ’tis great seeing them every wintry Saturday.

Since I prefer to wear shorts and tshirt when working out instead of sweatpants and sweatshirt, I wore a tshirt and a pair of jeans or pants last winter.  That was when I was known as Sleeveless Joe…However, the past few days became a lot windier, so I wore my jacket last time.  However, I was actually in shorts and even on today’s game, so I then became Crazy Joe!  There were two other Joes who usually play: the Joe I met (who became Captain Joe since he took over Dusty’s duties) and Big Joe (or Illinois Joe).

The funny story about today is that there were some folks who were around us taking pictures and such.  Usually, there would be a car or truck parked in front of us, speculating us for a while and then honked and waved at us.  And then, there was a guy who took pictures of us with a professional camera for a while.  Similar to others, he observed us for quite a while…but different from others, he started talking to me and others when Big Joe decided to switch with me to get into the game since I had played for a while.  The guy took a few pictures of me since I was the only one in shorts, and even Brandon (who was beside me and subbing as well) told the photographer that I was known to be Crazy Joe!  The photographer even commented on me wearing shorts under the 18F weather with large calves…Haha the guy took more pictures of me and told me that he is a professional photographer who is just taking pictures for fun.  He took photos for the Badgers too, and ’twas fun chatting with him.  He asked me for my name, told me his, and requested me to find him on facebook.  Later on, he took a group picture of everyone and left as we continued playing.

‘Twas a special experience for me since I have never been asked by professional photographers to take photos of me.  I mean, I do not look like Brad Pitt or a muscular stud (yet), and I am just one ordinary Asian.  I even look fat when bundled with my jacket, scarf, and other clothing to make my upper body warm.  Maybe I might have low self-esteem since I used to be heavier and think that I am not attractive enough for people around me.  However, being placed in the spotlight unexpectedly made me realize that I need to have more faith in myself and love myself more as well.  There were times when I told people who I am not as good as others in broomball or other sports, but I have been improving.  I will definitely continue to push myself to run and reach for the ball when the ice is slippery and even become a better player.  I will also continue to be supportive of my peers too by encouraging them to getting to know them more.  Even for great friends, there is always something new to learn about one another.

And yes–these things I learned from broomball overall and today’s experience relate to life quite well.  Instead of telling ourselves that we are not as worthy or that we cannot do it, we need to have positive thoughts in our minds and set high expectations.  If we keep telling ourselves negative thoughts, we would not be able to give ourselves an opportunity to grow and face challenges to become stronger.  We do not need to be cut-throat or mucho competitive, but we need to say that we are sexy when we look into the mirror and that we can confront challenges.

So am I crazy?  You betcha.  I’m still going to wear shorts or tshirts to future broomball sessions since that is who I am.  I do not care if I am different from others as long as I am enjoying the moment by myself and with others around me.  As long as I am making progress bit by bit, I will be blessed!

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!

The first week of the semester is flying by quickly, and my days are getting longer and longer.  After arriving back home or doing work until 9 to 10PM each day, I felt awfully tired and would just want to hit the sack.  Fortunately, I stopped by the gym tonight to finally prevent myself from becoming a fatter ass, and hopefully I can start my routine of going to the gym at least five times a week.

The inspiration of this entry actually sparked since last weekend, when I received emails from one of my co-teaching assistants expressing his nervousness in teaching.  He is a Master’s student, twenty-nine and married, and worked part-time in a chemical company.  However, he did his best to avoid public speaking-related courses as an undergraduate and finally had to face his fear on Monday.  I replied to his emails with tips, met with him before the session to go through the agenda, and spent quality time with him after the session.  His anxiety definitely shows with his words and degradation of himself in front of students, his voice was a bit soft and folks in the back might not be able to hear him, and his volume could easily be engulfed by students when they were discussing and chatting with one another.  He did not believe in himself in that he would be able to survive through the three-hour lab session.  Surprisingly during the forty minutes we spent after the lab session, he could easily tell me how to make chili without fear and would start interacting with the board.  When we changed the subject into something lab related, he did a lot better!  Although it seemed to be a small step, ’twas actually a big progress for him.  I will be teaching with him tomorrow, and I hope that things would go better for him.

Since Monday, I have been wondering why many folks I know would be nervous and even discouraged in themselves without having any confidence.  Yes, it can be personal, but it seems to be a trend among many college graduates nowadays.  Fast forward to Wednesday.  I hopped onto the bus heading to campus, and I heard a hi aiming towards my direction.  ‘Twas Kelsey, one of my students from last semester.  I sat next to her, and we started chatting about our winter breaks, Chicago, and her school work.  She is wondering about her next step in life, and is considering nursing school.  However, a staff at nursing school told her that she would not be admitted due to her GPA not being a 3.8 or above, and so she was thinking of transferring to Oshkosh.  Kelsey was not a really bad student though.  She did quite well in lab last semester, and she would also ask questions and do her best on quizzes and assignments.  She also worked well with groupmates…and so I was just shocked that she would feel discouraged by the GPA-eyeing staff from nursing school here.

Perhaps ’tis due to facing obstacles and challenges bit by bit that make us stronger with more confidence.  However, telling oneself that one can never overcome the barrier in the heart will not solve the problem.  Many educators today have become quite demanding of students, and that can be good.  ‘Tis good to be realistic and to push students, but an educator or a friend should also give others hope and even some suggestions or recommendations.  A lost soul will not be able to get onto a path unless if there is light or some guidance.  Dimming the light would blur the vision and create more confusion, but strengthening the light with encouragement and implanting faith into individuals can allow them to do greater things and even pass on the torch as well.  Even in a classroom setting, an intimidating atmosphere will not be as productive as one with a welcoming and collaborative atmosphere.  Sure, there are some individuals like me who would want to challenge themselves to show the intimidating professor that we can improve on our performance and even do better than them, but many folks would be beaten since day one.

I kept thinking about my co-TA and Kelsey, and apparently I do care about them since I want them to be able to do well and to accomplish their goals.  Although a teaching assistantship or nursing school is only a step to reach a greater goal, I just hope that they will not be bombarded and that they would lose their own character.  I then thought back to myself and became grateful to God.  He made me go through many challenges and hardships since at a young age.  I was never a straight A student although my grades were not terrible, but I aim to face difficulties and grow from those.  I was also fortunate to have great teachers in life, including my current advisor too.  Perhaps not hiding from sources of fear is another main message that should be delivered.  Many people are just scared of difficult times, but that also encourages folks to look broader at some life skills with organization, time management, planning and preparedness, and more.

We also need to be patient of ourselves and with each other.  Perhaps there is a reason why many of my friends would approach me to share their frustrations or concerns, and I would share my shoulder for them to cry on and offer them some suggestions.  Even Matt, who has been texting and chatting with me on Google since he is in Spokane for an interview for a faculty position since Sunday/Monday, would tell me that I am a good listener.  He was nervous before he left, but he viewed me as a support who would listen to him to make him feel a bit more relieved.  We as educators and even great friends need to be able to listen to one another and provide support as well instead of being an authoritative figure and take hopes away from one another.  With ourselves, the accumulation of small progress would lead to a great achievement.  It does not take one person a day of exercise to lose all the weight he wants but months and even years of work-outs and constant maintenance.

Perhaps one of God’s mission for me is to stand and deliver.  I can be an inspirational source according to many, and with my loud voice and entertaining teaching style, perhaps I really am suited to become a teacher or a professor in the future.  I still do not think that I would want to be a priest, although the statement from my friend and former student in which I should become a priest still rings in my head and would make me chuckle.  Hopefully, I will be able to motivate people around me to teach and help one another with love and care instead of a meter stick aiming at the palms of one another.  Perhaps this is why I have been a teaching assistant since my undergraduate years.  Although I first viewed a teaching assistantship to be a main financial support and an ordinary job, I am glad to see my progress each year.  The relationships I have with students and coworkers are rewarding, and I just hope that I can continue to stimulate people to think critically and apply concepts instead of memorizing them with notecards.

With the education system, a grade inflation for admissions is unfortunate.  In the good ol’ days of my advisor, a person with a 3.0 could easily get into medical school or graduate school, and ’tis just funny that one would place such heavy emphasis on a grade point value.  Sure, the GPA will mean nothing in the long run, but using the GPA as the main weed-out source for applications is just sad.  One can take really easy courses and get a 4.0 while learning nothing, where another could challenge themselves with higher level courses and get a 3.5 but learn a lot more with the materials.  A grade point does not indicate if one is a hard or efficient worker, and it does tell nothing about a character other than that how he or she did in a course.  Grade inflation creates more competition…and ’tis also impossible for everyone to get As in a course unless if they deserve it.  I have students who would miss class due to oversleeping last semester and I did give out Fs and Ds, so it would be unfair for other students who got As and ABs to have their class-skipping peers get the same grade.  However, even for those who would not get an A or AB, we still need to teach and encourage them to do better.  Perhaps setting an alarm clock or registering for a lab that meets at a different period.  There is no end to the world due to a specific issue, and we have to tell each other that.

Many people always tell me that the world needs more lovin’.  However, those folks who told me that might not necessarily be doing anything that would create more love.  Even for those who go to church, some can be self-centered and take others for advantage or for granted.  Showing love does not require materialistic goods but simple words and thoughts.  In this new lunar new year, I hope that I can continue to stand and deliver with strength and God’s guidance, and that I will be able to create and spread light into people around me.