Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

So I waited until it was actually new year before posting. I didn't want to make new year's resolutions while I'm still in the previous year. New year is too often a time for reflections on the past year and renewed vigor towards the current one. In one sentence, 2007 wasn't a bad one for me - one full of new things, one full of ups and downs, but overall not bad. 2008, however, I'm determined to make much better.

Okay, I don't like resolutions because they're like a set goal that I can't really achieve. So I'll say it this way: I will be determined to make progress. 2008 will = progress in these areas (as always, in no particular order):

1. Lose weight. I'm aiming to lose about 15-25 lbs in 4-5 months and then maintaining that new weight. To do this, I will go to the gym at least, but hopefully more than, 3 times a week.

2. Get a relationship. Start dating, progress a friendship "to the next level," something. Almost anything.

3. Get into med school. This is perhaps the big one. This means I can't afford to mess up my interview in 22 days.

4. Get straight-A's for this semester. I know it's possible, I've done it (once) before.

5. Finish my goddamn research project. It's been not working and a pain in my ass for over 2 years now.

6. Take a chance with new things, or something. Branch out, explore, etc.

7. Get to know some fellow bloggers in a way more than just what I read on the blogs. If you're reading this, feel free to contact me before I attempt to contact you!

8. Learn to cook new things.

9. Take off a mask or two. So far I've blogged mostly about the masks I wear, if it's something personal. It's about time I reveal a face or two behind these cracked things.

10. Come out to more people. Even if this mean 1-2 people, it's still progress.

Well, those are the big ones. There are smaller ones to the side, but these will be the ones that'll take precedence. Well, it's now 2008 and I'll be graduating after this semester. Wow, where has the time gone?!

Anyway, as if it hasn't been said enough, Happy New Year everyone!!

---TANGENT---
So I've added two more blogs to the list. They are:

Midwest Ben
MSTP Bound

Check them out if you haven't by now.
---END TANGENT---

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mask of the Artist

I have always loved art. I love creative expression in all its forms. As I've probably said before, creative expression such as art or music can bring out a person's soul, even if they never intend to. I've always been considered good at art, and there is some latent talent there that I haven't (and probably never will) tap into. Now I'm not good at all art forms (I don't think any one person can be), as I have my own particular styles and tendencies. For example, I suck at calligraphy with a brush. I do envy those Chinese people who make the Chinese language into art, because I can't do it.

In any case, I've always loved to draw. Although what I draw almost never comes out how I imagine it in my head, the end result is usually acceptable (to me). When I wear this Mask of the Artist, time seems to disappear. I can bend over a piece of paper for minutes and even hours at a time as the world passes me by. This isn't so good when I'm in a lecture. There's something about drawing that's so compelling, so captivating, so . . . personal.

Anyway, I'm what could be considered a "pencil artist." My chosen utensil is the pencil, mainly because I don't have access to other media such as paint or oils, and I don't know how to create art with Photoshop or any other programs. So I've taken to the pencil. I do wish, however, I had some "formal training" with pencils and shading, rather than just figuring it out. As a consequence, most of my art exists currently as "line art" without shading or coloring. I do hope, however, to come back to them one day and color them.

Last Vigil

As the last of its kind, this ice dragon looks to the setting horizon as the age of dragons comes to an end.














Kurotaka Makoto

This is me being a dork. He is me as a shinigami captain if I were a character in the anime Bleach. His sword (zanpakuto) is called "Hakage," which means "Under the shadow of leaves." Ask me for more details if you're curious. XD












A Dark Past

My friend, JS-M, asked me to draw him a dark warrior with a dark past. He looks half-shinobi, haha. I used his initials to create a "seal" or symbol to represent him.













Ice Mage

I offered to draw my friend JW-M an ice mage. I think the reason for this was because we both felt the mages in WoW (World of Warcraft) look less and less like actual mages, rather than mages wearing heavy armor. The more powerful armor sets looked stupid, and this is a "return to an original" concept.











So here are 4 examples of my "typical" art. Yeah, I do like to draw fantasy. Sci-fi is cool too. I wish I had some of my older landscape art, but I wonder what happened to them . . . Recently I've drawn very little. It makes me a little sad.

If you want, you can "commission" something from me, haha. Just let me know what you'd want me to draw for you and I'll do it and post it on this blog when I'm done. But you must be very specific on what you want, otherwise "artistic license" takes control. And as a word of warning, how fast I finish a drawing depends on many factors - such as classes. So it might be done in a few days, or it could be months (or never). Anyway, you're free to ask and pester me about it. You all know how to contact me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Eeks!

I had debated somewhat about posting this, as it's sort-of-not-really graphic, but oh so awkward and embarrassing.

Let's see, I couldn't fall asleep the night before last (Christmas night). Don't know why but whatever. So I had trouble sleeping the whole night, though I must've slipped in and out of consciousness because it didn't feel like 5+ hours had gone by.

So I got fed up. I was also getting really warm under the blankets and covers (all 4 layers of them). So I pulled off the layers, took off my clothes, and just laid on my bed naked. Then proceeded to masturbate. It was good. By the time I finished, I had cooled off a bit and was ready to put my clothes on again, pull the blankets and covers over me, and finally get some sleep.

It must've been around 6am or something because I heard my mom get ready for work. Also, I had turned on the lamp next to my bed and that light seeps out the door frame. I should also mention there are like no locks on any of the doors inside my house except on the bathrooms. And of course I laid in my post-masturbation glow or something too long. I hear my mom move near my door and I scrambled to at least cover myself with my clothes, even if I couldn't put them on in time.

The door cracks open a tiny bit, a weird noise escapes my mouth, and it shuts just as fast. Probably no longer than a second. But that second was tense. Also, one can see almost my entire room through just opening the door a crack. But my mom never mentioned anything later that day (yesterday) so I guess she must've closed the door faster than she saw anything, though she might've suspected.

That was close. Too close. Had she opened the door a minute or two earlier she would've caught me at the, uh, height of everything. That would've been much worse. Needless to say, I didn't sleep after that. Blah.

I need to get out of the house again and back in my apartment, where my roommate's gone like 85% of the time. I hope you were entertained by this oh so awkward and embarrassing moment.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Greetings

This could be the most underwhelming Christmas ever, haha. Usually nothing special happens on Christmas at my house anyway, but it is relaxing, and that's something. We don't generally buy/exchange gifts (anymore) but that's okay, my brothers and I seldom ask for anything anyway. Sometimes we'll ask for a "collective gift," one that all 3 of us want and will share - usually it's something quite expensive.

We kind of "celebrate" Christmas because everyone else does. It has, unfortunately, become something of a token holiday in some respects. It's perfectly fine without gifts (don't shoot me) and just a time to be at home with family (and/or friends). And even non-Christians can probably acknowledge that Jesus Christ is an important enough a figure to warrant one day a year in honor of him.

In any case, I've been feeling like a hermit the last couple days. So, I created an AIM screen name as well as a gmail.com account for this blog. They're both in the sidebar to the right. So, IM/email me and say "Hi!" Or to chat and whatnot. It'll be good to get to know some of you guys reading this.

Lastly, as if this hasn't been said enough, happy holidays and merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mask of the Writer

Why do I write? Why do I like to write? Why am I writing here? Ah, the questions I think I haven't answered before. It is, actually, somewhat strange for me to write a blog. But I am also simultaneously maintaining a LiveJournal account as well, though it's been in a state of semi-neglect lately (probably due to this blog). But I'm jumping ahead, first back to the beginning.

The Mask of the Writer is an old one. Truth be told, I used to hate writing. English was my worst subject in elementary and middle school. I wasn't bad in that I didn't get A's, because I did, but it was my worst because I wasn't able to capture its nuances. I was particularly bad at grammar - caused me much grief. But my 11th grade English teacher was amazing. Of course she was, she held a law degree. She taught us the essay - my chosen style of writing. With it I was able to analyze text and support arguments in my papers with sufficient evidence. And we had to be careful not to take things out of context. Finally, I had a way to discover, analyze, and play with the nuances of the English language. If I had the inclination, I would probably choose pre-law instead of pre-med owing to my writing style. But I don't have that inclination, so whatever.

Every time I write something substantial donning this Mask, it comes out at least essay-like. It tends to have a particular structure and form, with particular details of support and order. Granted, writing in a blog/journal is still free-form in ways an essay cannot be. Anyway, pardon me if things sound too rigid and formed - it's just how I write.

Now, in my sophomore year of college I opened a free LiveJournal account that I still post on from time to time. It was mostly somewhere I could rant and vent, as well as comment on my friends' LiveJournal accounts. I stuck to mostly "my day" things - things that generally weren't very private/personal. And of course, I started this blog where my identity is, as far as I know, still anonymous, something that's become more precious than I'd thought.

But why do I write? It serves many purposes. The most apparent one is to record my thoughts and events so that I may come back to it. Memory is an imperfect thing, and writing is one way of ingraining that memory elsewhere, to be revisited later. Through this, I am able to go back and read my old posts - which I do from time to time - and see exactly how I've changed. The changes are subtle, I admit. I don't think I'm one of those people who drastically change from one year to the next, etc. It's a slow progression with me, I think. And writing lets me see and follow that on a timescale that makes sense.

Another reason is rather morbid. But writing leaves some trace of my being behind. Who knows if I am to die today, or tomorrow, or the day after. There's always that uncertainty and I'm occasionally reminded of it. For example, a person I know who went to Cal Tech just died a few days ago. He was 20, and he wasn't feeling well. About half an hour later he had a heart attack and died, even though he was promptly rushed to the hospital. Just like that, with no prior health condition, with no warning, sudden death by a heart attack. How does that happen?! Why do things like that happen?! It's scary to even think about. And so I write - to remind myself that I was alive, that I am still alive. It's like leaving a part of me with whoever reads this.

But why write this, and why here? What do I hope to achieve? I don't know if I have a good answer to that. A part of it is to organize my thoughts, to clear the debris in my mind and help me focus. A part of it is to help me figure myself out: who/what I am, where I've been, where I stand, where I'm heading, and where I may want to go. All are ambiguous questions that aren't easily answered, because again, who knows what tomorrow brings.

I write here, on this blog, also as way of telling me to not hide that hidden part of me. And perhaps readers stumbling across this might be touched (I doubt it?), who knows. Here a part of me lives behind several masks, only the eyes and voices showing. And at the end of this, I hope to take off those masks one by one. And at the end of this, I hope to see me, strange as that sounds. But perhaps there are many "me," I don't know but I intend on finding out eventually.

As always, you're welcome to read, support/criticize, and comment as you please. I don't offend that easily. Soon though, I might create an email and AIM screen name just for this blog. So when I do, don't hesitate to say "hi" and such!

---TANGENT---
Okay, I've fully read and caught up on several blogs. They have been added to the sidebar and are as follows:

Falling off a log
Figuring Myself Out
Minding the Heart
Naughty Confucius

So yeah, check them out if you haven't already!
---END TANGENT---

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Semester in Summary

Oh man it's been a long and rather eventful semester. So much has happened, and yet so little; some of it good, some of it bad; but where to begin? Where indeed. Well, in no particular order (it's almost never in any particular order) . . .

Firsts: This has been a semester of firsts. You'd think that by your senior year of undergrad things are pretty much set-in-stone. But no. I started a blog and "came out" to the internet (which is kind of creepy thinking about it). I came out to myself, I guess. I came out to a friend. And this is only a small part of many other "firsts." Yet still, I hate the term "coming out." It feels . . . dirty somehow.

Classes: Miserable. I had 2 I liked (of which one I loved), 1 I tolerated, and 2 I hated with a passion. Usually, there's at most 1 I hate, and the rest I like or tolerate. Not one of my best semesters in terms of liking my classes, but definitely not my worst semester grade-wise. 3 A's and 1 B, and 1 still to go (probably some kind of a B). I am glad, for the most part, that this semester is over. I shall now sit here and await my last semester of undergrad, and fully embrace the courses I've chosen.

Friends: As I've said, I came out to SR-F. That was nerve-wracking. But it's good to see nothing has changed. It's kind of eerie how nothing's changed between us - no increase in bond, no decrease, just "business as usual," or so it seems. Friendships elsewhere have somewhat deepened. I haven't been this close to JW-M since freshman year when he was my roommate. I really should come out to him . . . soon. And hopefully next week I'll get together with my old friend, JR-M, who I haven't seen in person in over a year. This is unacceptable. It's strange to think that after this semester, we're all going to be scattered across the US (or world). Again, just like right after high school. Sigh.

Travels: I've been to more places this semester than all other semesters combined, I think. I went to Canada for RZ-F's birthday, "up north" for SR-F's birthday, and to New York for a med school interview. All were interesting and exciting experiences. I rather like to travel, I just don't have the opportunity to do so very often. So it's very refreshing when I do.

Sexuality: I'm coming to terms with it, still working on that. To say I'm straight is a lie. To say I'm gay is also probably a lie. To say I'm bisexual doesn't feel quite accurate, but it's the best I've got. To say I now know my sexuality is a misnomer, as there's still a bit of confusion left. There are days I swing back and forth, days where both attractions coexist, but I don't know. I know I "swing" mostly towards guys, but never to the total exclusion of women. And even as I type this, it feels somehow fake - as if it's not my words but someone else's. What a weird feeling.

Body: Well, at least I haven't gained weight this semester, which is alright. I've been running and lifting, so a significant proportion of my fat has been replaced by muscle, that's for sure. I no longer feel out-of-place in the weight room as I can actually bench and lift a respectable amount now. Some of the guys in there though, are WAY too buff, and it's kind of disgusting. I'm more comfortable with my body, but to say I'm happy with it would be a lie. I still need to lose lots of weight. I wish I had a high metabolism, stupid genes. >.<

Orchestra: It's been a love-hate relationship this semester. I liked the music we've played, I like the people I sit near, I love playing my instrument, but it doesn't feel "unified" somehow. An orchestra is suppose to have this strange synergistic feeling, where each of the sections feeds off of and fuels the others. The cello and bass sections support the strings, allowing the violins to play out. Meanwhile, the violas blend in and fill in the gaps. The brass accent loud and grandiose parts, whereas the woodwinds join the violins in the lofty melodies. And while as an ensemble we sounded good, I didn't feel it. As a single cellist, I am but a cell of an organ of a body that is the orchestra. But that said, String Orchestra has been an amazing experience. While we don't sound solid yet, the ensemble is more readily there. And it feels like everyone's playing their roles, if not the correct notes.

Other/Final Thoughts: Well, there are many other things I could write about, but they're "conveniently" not coming to mind. Hmm. But, I'm sad to say sexy ES-M won't be in my Chinese class next semester, as he couldn't sign up for my section. Alas. But, I'd like to say (and I think I've known this for a while), I can be seduced with sexy cello playing haha. I'm just drawn to the sound of that instrument (I've been listening to cello concertos for the last day or so). It's just such a sexy instrument! Okay, enough of that.

Happy holidays everyone! Even if you do/do not celebrate anything, it's the season and thoughts that really counts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ah, Glorious Winter Break

All I have to say is, "About damn time!" It's been a LONG semester, one that actually felt long. Most semesters feel unnaturally short to me, as if time is really flying, as it were. Anyway, there's so much to say but to put it all in one post would be to make things quite schizophrenic and somewhat disjointed. So, I'll start here. This'll be "Part I."
-----
Things to do this break (in no particular order):

1. Finish composing "Farewell" and maybe "Spring" (I'll probably change both titles).

2. Catch up on reading blogs I've bookmarked, and add them to the list. I would list the ones I'm reading here, but it'd be rude of me to do that and not put them on the list to the side if I didn't like said blog.

3. Work on my mini-course. I'm going to be teaching a mini-course with JW-M to 12 freshman next semester! It's on HIV/AIDS and government policies. It's going to be awesome - a little biology, a little poli-sci, a little for everyone concerned about this issue.

4. Clean out my e-mail inboxes. While I'm at it, I should clean out and delete some (or a lot) of my porn. They just take up valuable space on my laptop.

5. Watch several movies. In particular, I want to watch "The Golden Compass" and "I am Legend."

6. Make a snowman? Haven't made one in years because there hasn't been snow during this time of year in a while. The major snow was usually a "month late" in my opinion, coming in early/mid-January.

7. Prepare for another med school interview on January 23rd. Yay! Another one!! Here's hoping for more.

8. Draw. I haven't drawn anything in a while, but now I'll have time. To whoever wants, I'll draw "commissions." A bit on that later in a few days, just note that it could take me weeks to finish anything.

9. Determine bowings and fingerings for the cello parts of the pieces we're playing in String Orchestra.

10. Sleep! Get much more sleep!!
-----
Okay, so my break isn't too exciting. I'm not going anywhere to escape the cold, but whatever. I finally have time to do things. They may be boring or tedious to some, but they need to be done. Part II coming soon!

---TANGENT---
It really bothers me when people say things like, "That's so gay" or "That's tight." The converse, "That's so straight" or "That's loose" are never said. I can never bring myself to say those words, and I just want to protest against these things, but I know the futility of that attempt. I got my brother to stop for a while, but alas, my long absence deteriorates the conditioning. I also avoid the word "bitch" as much as possible, unless I'm referring to someone who truly deserves that title (which is rare, because there are few people I dislike that much).
---END TANGENT---

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Any Indication of . . .

This post will be so incredibly nerdy . . . Anyway, the last few days I've been playing Starcraft: Brood Wars with my friends. When I told my med student host this he was like, "People still play that?!" Um, yeah we do! While playing, I noticed how different my "style" of playing was compared to theirs in general. So I have this theory: the kind of game(s) one plays, the character(s) one chooses, and the way one plays reflects something about that person's personality, or at least tendencies. Let's start . . .

I very rarely play first-person shooters, as I stick mostly to strategy games (like Starcraft) or RPGs (like Zelda games). I lack the speed and reflexes for first-person shooters. I'm too methodical, calculating, and cautious. I could perhaps be good at sniping, but that's my limit. For this reason, I tend to stay far away from shooters.

I like strategy games like Starcraft because I can plan out my moves to some extent. And I can coordinate my armies and groups. I'm not the best at micromanaging and I don't tend to memorize hot keys, so I'm definitely not the fastest player. And again, if it's a game of speed, I will almost certainly lose; but if I'm left alive for a significant amount of time, it can prove difficult to kill me (or at least, I'll make it as annoying and harassing as possible).

So here's where I differ. I tend to play very defensively. I either concentrate on building defenses before troops, or I completely ignore defenses and build lots of troops and have them stationed in/near my base(s). I don't build expansions very quickly either, though I'm a decent resource-gatherer. I like to build ranged and highly mobile units so they can go from point A to point B in a flash. I am usually useful in team games because I make good support for teammates. I can usually get some of my troops to defend my teammates or to support their armies, most of the time. If we're able to coordinate our troops, we can make a good combo.

In RPGs I like to play spellcasters or ranged characters. I don't like to get hit and I prefer not to be "up and personal" with my opponents. For example, let's take World of Warcraft (henceforth called "WoW") when I used to play it a couple years ago. My two primary characters were a hunter and the druid. The hunter was great because he was a ranged character who didn't rely heavily on mana, so he could just keep going provided he had enough arrows. In groups I was basically ranged support. I dealt damage to the primary target, but I also protected the spellcasters (particularly healers). However, I liked my druid much more.

Why? Because the druid could do a little of everything: he could be a great healer, he could be a great tank, and he could be a decent damage-dealer. The druid can fundamentally fulfill the role of whatever's lacking in a group - the ultimate support unit. I find that I really like to be a support person in a group. I'll volunteer to be the healer, the one everyone depends on to stay alive. Or I'll volunteer to be the tank, the one that takes all the damage so everyone else doesn't. While I only really like to tank for a good group, I prefer to be the healer/backup healer in pretty much any other group. By the way, most people hate healing in WoW, and I'm not sure why; I guess it takes a special person to enjoy healing others.

So the moral of this post is, I suppose, if games are any indications, I can be a cautious, methodical, defensive, and supportive person. Hmm, sometimes I wonder why I post such random (and trivial?) things.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Good and the Bad

First of all, thanks to W (Erik) of Whittle et al. for his good luck wishes on my New York Medical College (NYMC) interview. I had never been to NY, so it was pretty cool; but man, it's been a really long 3 days, and with every "good" there was an equal "bad." Let's see, I think I'll present it this way.
-----
To NYMC
I had to get up at like before 7am to get to the airport to catch my flight. Thankfully, I had several hours down time between when I would arrive in NY and when my med student host was going to pick me up. However, my plane to LaGuardia Airport was delayed over an hour because there was a lot of air traffic at LaGuardia. So we all sat on the plane for over an hour longer, grrr.

I found the NY Airport Service bus that took me to Grand Central Station fairly easily, but it dropped me off at the "wrong" side of Grand Central. I walked into the subway section when I wanted the rail section, which was Metro-North across the street. I had to cross the street, and when I entered Grand Central, I was lost for like 20 minutes.

I eventually found the ticket person and bought my round-trip ticket. And I also eventually figured out the schedules for the trains. I still had 2-3 hours before peak time, before things got really crowded and expensive. I wandered Grand Central for a while, as there was quite a bit to see in there. There are quite a number of shops and such, as well as a "Dining Concourse" (aka, food court) on the lower level.

I arrived at my destination at 4:30pm-ish. My med student host wasn't going to be able to pick me up until around 6pm or so. But, he actually ended his preceptorship (doctor shadowing) early. So he picked me up around 5:30pm instead. Yay!
-----
The Interview
Again I had to wake up early before 7am, ugh. I hate waking up that early, I could practically watch dawn come. The "continental breakfast" was really lacking when I reached the Administration Building. I did like how the med student campus apartments are like, 3 minutes away from that building and less than 5 minutes away from their classes. The apartments weren't bad either, somewhat better than mine right now, in fact.

The other med school applicants were rather intimidating to me. This one person worked for the NIH for 2 years, another worked for a health management company that manages health-related NGO non-profits. I think I was the only interviewee there who was at his first interview . . . some of the places other people already interviewed at include Harvard and Washington University. Sigh.

Regardless, I felt my interview went fairly well. It was a fairly relaxed atmosphere, very conversational, but her questions were unusually difficult to answer at times. But that's not to say I didn't have an answer, it just took me like 30 seconds to figure ways around to get her to clarify what she was asking.

We talked a bit about my non-science courses. I mentioned medical anthropology, which I loved, and how I read Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a book about how Hmong people and Western doctors approach medicine. Apparently my interviewer was well acquainted with that book. I then mentioned how we also discussed Deaf culture, and she immediately piped up how she worked with Deaf people. Ahh! Then she asked me what I thought the future impact of cochlear implants on Deaf culture. This was difficult to answer, because I didn't really know. I said something to the effect of, "Well, Deaf culture is going against the minority. Hearing parents will want their Deaf children to get cochlear implants whereas Deaf parents will resist cochlear implants for their Deaf children." Apparently that was what she wanted me to say, or something like that. ::Sighs a breath of relief::

I then mentioned all the research I did in my undergrad between two different labs. She kept asking me how things worked and exactly what I was studying. Unfortunately, I had forgotten some of the background on the research I did, as I only really know what I did from day-to-day fairly well. It took me a minute or two to fish out enough info so that it didn't look like I had no idea what I was doing. That was a little scary on my part, but I think I did okay . . .

Logically, her next question was, "Why be a doctor? Why not research?" Well, I had prepared for this question for a while, so I had an answer. Same thing goes for her question, "Why NYMC?" I felt I did fairly well on those questions.

As we ended, it began to snow. I like snow, because in my Midwestern state, snow means it's not that cold, because below a certain temperature it doesn't snow. Apparently people in NY don't really know how to handle snow very well. Oh yeah, about 25% of the med students are from NY, about 20% are from CA, and the remaining 55% are from like 28 other states. And there were 3-4 CA applicants there. They felt it was freezing, lol. I thought it was relatively warm, compared to where I'm from (while I don't like the cold, this weather was tolerable). They also never saw snow before, so they were like, "Is that snow? Is it coming down fast? Or is this normal?" Needless, I was highly amused by their cluelessness.

The snow was nice, but it also caused NYMC to close down at noon, about 20 minutes after my interview ended. This caused our campus tour and lunch afterwards to be canceled. Gah! I ate some turkey bacon and eggs back at my host's apartment. I try to avoid bacon as much as possible, because it's so bad for the health. But I was starving, so whatever. I should note here that their apartment is very very clean, as far as guys' apartments go. Like, 5x cleaner than mine (not that mine's filthy, only that I'm pretty much the only one who actively cleans when I have the time - which isn't too often). Also their apartment is very "Asian," because 2 Asian guys and an Indian guy live there. Their 4th Caucasian roommate is almost never around, and I only saw him for about 10-20 minutes when I met him.
-----
Leaving NYMC
By the time my med student host took me back to the train station, it began sleeting. That's SO much worse than snow because it's a lot more slippery. But I arrived at the train station alright, and took a fairly early train back to Grand Central.

At Grand Central, I had to find the NY Airport Service again to get back to LaGuardia. So I went to the tourism booth and asked the person there. She was like, "It's on 41st Street between Lexington and Park." I was like, okay . . . this shouldn't be too hard. I walked out of Grand Central, into the freezing rain. Ahh! So I promptly went back in, but not before getting quite wet. And I couldn't find this bus stop. I kept poking my head out of random Grand Central exits to see if I could see it anywhere, but I didn't. So I decided to walk the stretch of road right outside Grand Central and between Lexington and Park. I eventually found the NY Airport Service. Across the street. She should've told me that!
-----
Leaving NY - Part I
Well, I thought it would take forever to get to LaGuardia due to the weather, but it didn't. And I had been frantically checking to see if my flight was canceled whenever I had internet connection. It hadn't been canceled, but by the time I arrived at the airport, it was canceled. Oh no!

I managed to get re-booked for a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and take a connecting flight from there home. When I got to the gate, there were so many people there! Probably because everyone on my plane, which was a direct flight from LaGuardia home, was re-booked onto that one.

My parents suddenly/randomly called to tell me that I got an interview offer from Wayne State University and a rejection (from a hold originally) from George Washington University. I told them that I also just got an email from Albany saying I was on hold there. Grrr, indefinite hold is almost as good as a rejection.

Anyway, then this random Chinese woman goes up to me after I got off the phone and asks, "Can you speak Chinese?" I answered "Yes," and she started speaking to me in Chinese. Her English wasn't very good, and she wanted me to translate the constant stream of announcements for her, as well as to just have someone to talk to. Soon this other Chinese guy noticed I could speak Chinese, and asked for my help in translating as well. I actually helped him re-book his flight because he didn't know quite enough English to do it himself. Needless to say, I felt proud of myself for being so useful and helpful. Hurray bilingualism!! Now, to get 100% better at Spanish so I can be almost trilingual.

Well, my kindness wasn't well rewarded by the weather gods. The freezing rain had coated all the planes in a layer of ice, and the de-icing couldn't keep up with the rain. So every plane out of LaGuardia from NWA was canceled, except mine. It was delayed about 1.5 hours. I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep on the plane to Minneapolis.

But because the plane was delayed for so long, all the connecting flights (except for Boise, ID) had already left. They had attempted to wait for us, but they weren't going to wait over 1.5 hours. Understandably.
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Leaving NY - Part II
Well, when we got off the plane at Minneapolis/St. Paul, we were greeted with a counter with our re-booked tickets. Needless to say, many people were pissed. Since I didn't have enough money and with no credit card, I just spent the night in the airport. It was about 11pm by now, and my flight was at 6am. So even if I had managed to get to a hotel, I'd only spend like 4-5 hours there. Not worth the money.

Let me tell you, finding comfortable place to sleep in an airport is rather difficult. I first found a bench, and "slept" for about half an hour. But there were too many noises. Same thing with location 2. By now it was like 1am when I finally found a spot that was quiet and decently comfortable. But I suddenly woke up around 3am in a panic for whatever reason, and I couldn't go back to sleep.

So I went to my gate and just sat there. I dozed off for a little bit. Then this Asian woman walked up to me, sat across from me, and started talking to me. I was like, "Who are you??" She first thought I was Japanese, but I corrected her. Then she said she was Hmong. OMG!! Was this real?! I just met a Hmong!! It was like out of the book I had to read for medical anthropology! This was an anthropological experience.

I had to fight every urge to ask her random useless things about her culture. This wasn't too difficult to do because I was exhausted. I must've talked with her for 15-20 minutes. She mentioned how you shouldn't let any boss over you, and that you should be your own boss. And she recommended that I pursue chiropractics over medicine so I can set my own hours and be my own boss. Throughout all this, I thought, "This is SO part of your culture" (The Hmong people are fiercely independent and don't like to be told what to do, which is the source of a lot of conflict between their people and others). Anyway, that was an interesting encounter. Before she walked away, she said how people my age need boyfriends/girlfriends, otherwise we wouldn't feel human. Hmmm . . . I think she might be hinting at something to me.

By this time it was almost 5am, and I hadn't eaten anything really since about noon the previous day. So I had Subway in the airport, and returned to waiting. 6am came around, we boarded the plane, only to be told half an hour later that we had to get off due to some malfunction and that they were finding us another plane.

Well, half an hour later they did indeed find us a plane. And we were on our way home. I slept maybe an hour this time.
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Once Home
Once I got back to the airport at home, my dad picked me up and directly drove me back to my university. I was meeting someone in the library to study for our final exam in evolution today (oh, did I mention that? Yeah . . .) at 11am. I left the airport at around 10:30am, got back to my apartment at 11am, and got to the library by 11:10am or so.

We studied for several hours, then went to eat something at 3pm before our final at 4pm. The final went alright, though if I had either a good night's sleep or an extra hour to study, I would've had a guaranteed A on it. As it stands, I probably got a really low A or a fairly high B on it. Oh well, it's over with.
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So yeah, that was the last 3 days. Got about 5 hours of nonconsecutive sleep, if that. Was all over the place due to the weather. Had to take an exam almost as soon as I got back on campus. I don't feel quite as tired as I really should.

There were some good things . . . Staying with the med student was a really good experience. Witnessing the CA guys be all confused and such over snow was funny. Being useful to random Chinese people was something to be proud of. Meeting a Hmong was a rare opportunity (they're a really small Asian minority), and was akin to an anthropological excursion as far as I'm concerned. Oh yeah, and the actual interview went alright. Here's crossing my fingers for an acceptance email/letter in 10-12 weeks.

Anyway, everything else was just bad. I don't ever want to fly NWA (Northwest Airlines) again. Okay, sleep for many hours starting NOW. It also felt really really good to jerk off after 3 days of not having done so. Just one of those things you miss . . .

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Oh, the Dorkiness

As I was browsing my friends' facebook profiles, I came across the webcomic Piled Higher and Deeper. It's hilarious, I assure you, particularly for those of a more dorky/nerdy persuasion. Here are some of the classical highlights:

For the original link, go here: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=413.


For the original link, go here: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=331.

For the original link, go here: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=125.

The last one was actually printed and posted in the lab I worked at over the 4 summers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Series of Amusing Events

Life's been rather boring lately. It's been the usual for this time of year - stressing out about papers and exams. On top of that, a med school interview for me next Thursday. Nevertheless, the passing days have their moments, and amusement ensues (maybe only in my mind, who knows).

Although this is a poor and rather uncreative thing to post for a 1000+ page view, it's the best I've got at the moment.
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Sunday (12-2-07) was the Pops Orchestra concert. I did not want to be there, the weather was gross (rain and snow at the same time), I had too many papers due, etc. There was, however, one highlight to the concert.

During intermission, AW-F got this note from someone. This freshman's roommate gave the note to her. Right before intermission ended, she wanted to share the note with some of her friends in the cello section (AW-F plays the cello too). Well, of course the entire section became curious and before long, this poor freshman's note was made known to the entire section. If he knew/saw, he'd be terribly embarrassed.

Basically, he was trying to hit on her from afar. I don't blame him, AW-F is really really attractive and has that bubbly persona that makes you smile. The note said something to this effect (I'm paraphrasing from memory): "I think you're very cute and you're clearly really good at the cello. Do you want to go out for coffee or a date sometime? Here's my cell number: ###-###-####. LSA freshman, Jared."

After the concert, she was like "Maybe I will call him back, just to say 'no.' I do have to give him props though, he's got guts." Lol, was all I thought.
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In Chinese today (12-4-07), we had this in-class writing assignment where we basically translated a page. That was moderately rough. And I'm generally a slow writer in both English and Chinese. ML-F was way ahead of me, but she kept forgetting a few characters here and there. I eventually almost caught up. Here was the verbal exchange:

ML-F: When did you catch up?!
Me: Umm, just now.
ML-F: Crap, I can't win . . .
Me: ::laughs:: Crap, now I can't write because I'm laughing!
ML-F: I won't let you win, I'm going to win.
Me: ::still laughing:: I'm almost caught up . . .
ML-F: I'm done! I win!!
. . .
After Chinese class, I was walking down the stairs, wearing my really big greenish coat.

Me: I have an aversion to wearing hoods with this coat. I look like an Eskimo in this coat.
ML-F: That's okay, we're Asian.

Honestly, I love the things that come out of her mouth. It's as random as the stuff that comes out of my mouth. She tried to convince me to write her Apocalypse paper for her, and that she would do anything I wanted . . . and by that she meant she would pay me . . . with food . . . or cookies rather.
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There's this chocolate cake in my lab. I don't know what went into it, but I couldn't finish eating the slice I took. And it was a relatively small slice too. I got about 2/3 of the way done, then I had to quit. I went to do some of my experiments, came back, ate a bite, and then threw the rest away. If I had eaten any more, I might've thrown up.

That must've been the richest and densest cake ever. This is why I don't usually eat brownies. They're of a similar denseness. Needless to say, I'm not eating anything chocolate (unless it's chocolate itself) for quite some time.
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Yesterday after dinner I was drinking my hot honey water (read this post for explanation), as I'm wont to do sometimes. My roommate DvF-M looks at me all weird. And I had to explain to him how it warms me up on cold days (it's been very cold here lately), it calms me down when stressed, and it soothes my throat if it's dry, irritated, sore, or if I have a cough. He still looked at me weird.

Then, I was reading the news and I saw this. I am now justified. Honey merits more than people give it credit for. Dis not the honey, for it is sweet and good for you.
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That's pretty much it for now.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mask of Stoicism

It seems I have a Mask of Stoicism, one I use to mask my real emotions (particularly when I'm tired). JW-F pointed it out to me tonight at dinner, though she didn't use the term "Mask of Stoicism." Here's how the conversation sort of went:
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RZ-F: I love red peppers. ::puts lots of ground red peppers on her pizza::
JW-F: I like them too, but that's way too much for me.
RZ-F: I like it spicy.
JW-F: Yeah, but if you put too much it stays in your mouth. And when you get that one flake between your teeth and your tongue touches it, it's so spicy it burns.
RZ-F: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Me: What? I barely notice it.
JW-F: Well, when it's mixed in the food it's okay.
Me: Eh, whatever.
JW-F: . . . You're either very stoic or you just don't care.
Me: ??
JW-F: You're stoic when you just don't show it. And when you don't care, you just don't care.
Me: Okay then, I'm stoic.
. . .
JW-F: It really bothers me that she has that solo part in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (about the cello solo that we wanted).
Me: Umm, yeah . . .
JW-F: Are you being stoic now or do you just don't care?
Me: I . . . uh . . .
JW-F: You're stoic. Of course you care inside.
Me: Okay.
-----
It's true, I mask my real emotions so I just appear really stoic, unless you're a really close friend of mine or if I get really worked up over something. In all honestly, I love spicy food and am rarely phased by it. It just doesn't burn me nearly as much as most of my friends. Maybe it's cuz I'm Asian, haha. I've only been really affected by the spiciness of what I'm eating a handful of times (that's not to say there isn't spicy food out there that'll get me, I just haven't had it yet). Actually, I barely taste the spiciness in Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich - it just tastes seasoned to me. :P

---TANGENT---
I can't believe my blog's been visited over 1000 times. That's like, a landmark or something (for me)! I should post something amusing for my next one. I'll think of something. In the meantime, I'm counting down 11 days or so till my med school interview at NYMC. As far as I'm concerned, this may be the only interview I'm offered. I cannot blow it.
---END TANGENT---

Bittersweet

Is it possible for one's mood to swing 180-degrees in less than 12 hours, then swing 180 back after 3 more hours, then swing back again so on and so forth? My mood's a frickin' pendulum today.

After my horrible journalism class (it was actually bearable today), a classmate came up to me and asked me for the contact info of one of the sources for my final article. He was the kind of person's that's near-impossible to find, and I just got really really lucky. It seems her younger sister is in my study session that I lead and I just found that out like a month ago. Apparently, her younger sister thinks I'm a good study leader (it's kind of like a tutoring job, but I'm not allowed to give answers) because I explain things well. I must be doing something right! So I left that class quite happy and flattered.

In lab I finally saw my friend, AG-F, who I haven't seen since like Monday. So we talked, and I helped her out in the mouse room, etc. It was sad when she went to subject 3 mice to euthanasia. The "most humane" way was to kill them with carbon dioxide because it puts them to sleep first before they fully suffocate to death. Well . . . the carbon dioxide tank has been really bad lately. The flow of the gas wasn't constant or something, and the mice started going into seizures. That was horrible to watch. We both felt so bad, but there was really nothing that could be done. Stupid death tank. She told me worse stories that happened when other people kill mice. I smelled like mice when I left the mouse room.

And after returning back to my lab, I got the results for my 20 DNA samples back from the sequencing core. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the sequencing core (along with the transgenic core and enzyme core) sounds a lot better than it actually is in reality. It has such a futuristic name but it's kind of a disappointment when you actually see it. It's basically a room like an office. I'm sure it's connected to some place that's cooler, maybe. Anyway, I got back my DNA samples for the experiments I did last week. Well, apparently none of my samples had the right DNA sequence I was looking for. That was like, inconceivable. I made sure there was DNA in my samples when I sent them. This was just not right. I was shocked, and upset, and annoyed. I had worked about 2 weeks on these samples! Grrr.

Then I watched the latest episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (many hours later). Yup, a part of me's still a kid inside. I will hold onto that part of my soul for as long as possible. I love cartoons and anime. Anyway yeah, dorky it may be, but it sure lifted my mood.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Misanthropic Cellist

I wrote half an entry ranting about the events that made my week go downhill (it's still somewhat going downhill, but it's also more than half over). And now that I've deleted it, all that remains is the title above. Let that be some hint. It's not really worth it to type about, it just felt good to type it out when I did a few hours ago.

In other news, a German guy (as in, from Germany) joined our String Orchestra recently. I don't remember his name, but I know he plays the violin and is quite hot, and his German accent only makes things that much better. Distractions everywhere!

And now I have a headache. And I still have 3 papers to finish . . . sigh.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mask of the Composer

Thanksgiving break was wonderful. Did pretty much nothing academic and caught up on lots of sleep. And, for the first time in over 2 months, I had inspiration to compose a little more on a couple of my pieces that have been on hold. For the first time in a long while, I donned my Mask of the Composer.

Now, it's a very amateurish mask, and I contend that anyone who knows any semblance of music theory and has a creative mind can compose something. That said, very few people compose well, and I don't profess to compose well. I do it for fun as it's another creative outlet, and I can hear "potential" in my pieces, but I don't have the training and technical expertise to make them sound great. Anyway, here's my Mask.
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History
I guess I started composing my senior year of high school. I've only composed for instruments I either know how to play (piano and cello) or know how to play in theory (violin and viola). So I've mostly only composed for these 4 instruments. I use a free program called Finale Notepad 2004 that I downloaded off their site on the internet. The full version of Finale costs too much, though my brother was somehow able to pirate a few copies (a whole lot of good that does him, as it expires after 30 days without a valid authentication key).

Anyway, I've composed many pieces, and every semester starting my second semester of freshman year we (my string trio) has played at least 1 piece I've composed. Music for string trio (violin, viola, and cello) is unusually hard to come by, particularly good music. Most trio music are for violin, piano, and cello. Poor viola. So I thought, why not compose something that'll at least be fun to play? And that I did. To date, most of my pieces have been for string trio. I once tried to compose a trio for electric guitar, piano, and cello. Thanks to my friend, MS-M, I knew (in theory) how to compose for guitar; however, since I don't play the guitar (electric or otherwise), I composed intervals that were near-impossible to physically play. Alas. I compose on average about 1-2 pieces per semester. There are also many other pieces that I've started but haven't finished (and maybe never will).

Currently I'm working mainly on 3 pieces: one for a string trio, one for a cello quartet, and one for a string sextet (2 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos). The string trio piece will be played next semester for sure, and it's aptly titled "Farewell." The history behind that piece is obvious enough. It's my last semester of undergrad. Also, it's partly to commemorate my friend who passed away last year, as well as a friend who went from majoring in MSE (material science engineering) to becoming a nun over the summer (and now we never hear from her anymore). It utilizes a lot of chords and sustains in A minor. I think it sounds pretty good thus far. "Hymn" is the working title for the cello quartet, though that'll likely change somewhat later. It follows a similar style as the string trio. Now, the sextet - that's a beast to compose. I may never fully understand how the great classical composers wrote such amazing symphonies, as it's hard enough to coordinate 6 instruments! Anyway, the title of the sextet is "String Alchemy."

Composing Philosophy
I believe that every composer has some kind of philosophy when composing. Mine has been fairly simple: no instrument, part, or piece will be overly repetitive. I've listened to too many modern songs where it's basically an exposition, several refrains, then an ending. Such a boring structure. And I've played many pieces in my life where the cello part is the same damn thing for almost the entire piece. And I also pity the viola. They too often get offbeats, syncopations, and arpeggios. Now, arpeggios are fairly cool . . . until you've played them for a page, then it gets old.

So my composing philosophy is to never subject an instrument to that. That's quite a challenge though, because you need the repetitive parts to create certain effects. My earlier pieces don't have that forward moving drive because the cello and viola parts lack the repetitive parts. So the direction of the piece relies solely on the players as a unit because there's no internal mechanism from keeping it going.

My later pieces utilize more repetitive parts, though not for very long in any particular instrument. The repetitive "beat-keeping" parts move between the three instruments, though it's still mostly kept to the cello and viola. It's a decent compromise. I like to have my pieces where everyone gets melody and everyone gets harmony at some point.

It's still difficult though, as things are limited by instrumentation and how they sound. Obviously where the cello's the lowest instrument, it must be the foundation of sound from which the other instruments build upon. Thus it must either keep beat in its lower register or have long sustained notes. Sigh, the very things I dislike playing. At least when I compose these pieces I'll have no one to blame but myself. But, when the instrumentation is like 4 cellos, things get much more interesting. For one, the bottom base part can easily switch between all 4 cellos, and it has the added effect (though this only applies in proximity of the performers) of hearing different parts being switched and played from different members of the group. It's kind of cool if, say, the "first" cellist is playing the melody one second only to have the "fourth" cellist playing it the next second.

Forms
Now, there are many composition forms. There are preludes, there are fugues, there are toccatas, there are chorales, there are ABA/ABBA/ABCBA sonata forms, there are etudes, there are tarantellas, and the list goes on. I haven't explored most of these, partly because I don't know where to begin and what to do. It's somewhat difficult, even in this internet age, to find "rules" of composing in these forms.

I was, however, fairly successful in composing a fugue last fall semester. It was called (uninspiringly) "Windchaser Fugue." Currently, the pieces I'm working on probably most closely resembles chorales, but only for parts of the pieces. Hmm, I wonder if there are "rules" for chorales . . . probably. One day, I may try to revisit the idea of composing a "suite" like Bach did. It would include a prelude, a sarabande, and a courante for sure. Those are fairly simple ideas. One day maybe. I may also go back to pieces I've already composed and make them sound better with the benefit of retrospection and experience.
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So I basically only compose when I'm struck by inspiration, which happens at the strangest times (like 2am, I composed an entire piece between 2-3am every night for like a month - it's aptly titled "Early Morn Inspiration"). I've also noticed that inspiration only comes when there's time for it, and when it does, it comes in waves.

I'll get a sudden urge that'll last a few hours, then it'll disappear for days, even weeks. So I'll compose maybe a page or two (rarely) in a single day/night, then won't compose on that piece again for maybe a month. It's strange how that works, but then again, this is a very strange (and incomplete) mask I wear.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was going to write a post ranting and raging about something that happened on Tuesday. It was pretty bad, and it caused me to rage inside for almost all of Tuesday and part of Wednesday. But you know, it's freakin' Thanksgiving, so no ranting here.

Thanksgiving is awesome and one of the most underrated holidays, in my opinion. Thanksgiving is never really advertised much. Things tend to bypass Thanksgiving on its way from Halloween to Christmas and that's sad. While I pretty much love all holidays, my two favorite are probably Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year, partly because of the sheer volume of food involved.

To me (particularly in the last 4 years or so), Thanksgiving is a time to just get together with my immediate family and not really do much. After the food's made, it's restful (usually). It'd be cooler if my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents could all get together with us as well, but they live in Chicago, IL, and in Milpitas, CA, so that's not going to happen. Also, my brother's birthday is always within a few days of Thanksgiving (he was either born on, the day before, or the day after Thanksgiving) so it's almost like a double celebration. It's pretty sweet.

It's late so that it for now. At the very least, I'm thankful it's Thanksgiving. There's really too much to be thankful for to be fully expressed concisely in words.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Autumnal Fires

It's been quite cold the last few days here in my Midwest state. Sigh, it was so nice just prior too. The leaves were all in beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow - almost looks like the trees were on fire if the sunlight hits it just right (hence, autumnal fires). The leaves have now almost all fallen, and the autumnal fires are now but embers. But before they dwindled into embers, I took some pictures. Ah, mid-autumn is one of my favorite seasonal parts of the year (the other being late spring). Here's a sample, enjoy!

















































The two pictures of a statue is of one called "The Flame of Wisdom" near the med school campus. I managed to catch ES-M in two of them, haha. He's kind of cute and oblivious from behind. :P

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Farewell

No, not me. I'll still be here blogging, for quite some time yet I think. No, a post-doc in my lab is moving back to Brazil. Tomorrow. That's sad. She's such a nice and uplifting person, I'll miss her.

She was showing some of us pictures that she took while she was in Japan for a human genetics conference, so she was only there for a few days (at most) but in that time, she took about 1600 pictures. What?! Now that's a lot of pictures.

My researcher, MMC-F, said that she must take pictures like the Japanese. When my researcher was in France (she's French-Lebanese), she was walking around with her husband behind a Japanese family. They had to dodge being in the photos as the Japanese just go around and click click click click. In her words, "They don't see Paris. They see Paris later, in photos."

Anyway, as she was talking about Japan and telling us how impressed she was, she showed us pictures of their toilets. She has many pictures of their toilets because she was so impressed by them. I must admit, the Japanese are quite inventive with things. I mean, their toilets had buttons that squirt water at your butt to clean it after you're done doing whatever. You can also adjust the temperature and pressure of the squirt. They also installed a faucet and small sink on top of the toilet so when you flush, the faucet runs and you can wash your hands. They're so efficient at making due with tiny spaces.

Speaking of tiny spaces, their parking lots are also quite ingenious. Basically, you can park under someone else's car. This is a bit hard to describe because you'd have to see the pictures. Anyway, the ground parking spot can lift up, like an elevator of sorts, to reveal a space underneath where another car can park. Then it goes back down and that car is now underground. When you want to get to that car again, you put a key into this thing, and the ground spot (and the car on it) lifts up again so you can access your car. It's certainly more effective/efficient than building a whole new second parking structure, so says my researcher.

Okay, that was quite a bit of info about toilets and parking lots. But it's pretty clear that Japan is more technologically adept and modern than the US, and they make really good use of very little space. Yes, it is impressive.

Yeah, I'll miss her. I hope she's happy and successful wherever she ends up. Oh yeah, she wants to order one of those Japanese toilets when she gets a house. Apparently, the cheapest one costs like $298 US dollars or something.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Things that Come Up

This is going to be an epically bad week for me. Had 2 quizzes yesterday, an exam this morning, a paper due tomorrow morning, another quiz tomorrow, and a Chinese presentation due Thursday as well as a really long Chinese homework . . . on top of everything else. Yeah, I shouldn't be blogging right now. Oh well.
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Anyway, I was have a conversation with DvF-M yesterday about epic literature, literally. We were discussing epic poetry like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. It started because he saw some ad on TV for the Beowulf movie that's coming out, and about how it totally ruins the original epic poem. Well, the poem was written in Old English before Latin influence, so many words and grammar in Old English doesn't exist in today's English. It's like reading Classical Chinese and modern Chinese - it's really hard to do. Well, we debated that back and forth about how already so much is lost in translation, that a movie couldn't be that much worse (well, I argued that).

Then we decided to discuss what's actually considered an epic poem or an epic. Really, the last epic written was The Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien in the 1950s. Are epics rare throughout history? It seems so, I think.

Incidentally, epic poetry is almost entirely absent from East Asian cultures. What they have is the epic novel, like The Lord of the Rings. Supposedly, the first novel was The Tales of Genji from Japan. China never had epic poems, as most Chinese (and Japanese) poems are really short. Apparently, words are intentionally kept out of the poems because they're implied, and "what's left unsaid" was considered artistic and beautiful. Chinese poetry does have a certain flow to it, I must admit. It's also kind of hard to understand because it can be interpreted and translated in so many ways.

Now, the Chinese epics are all books or novels. For example, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and Dream of Red Chamber (also called The Story of Stone). These are all ingrained into Chinese culture, as indicative of any epic I think. Journey to the West is the one I know most about, but still I haven't read any of them in English (and certainly not in Chinese). And that's why I'm going to take a course next semester in it, or at least I intend to. Epics for the win!
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Today right before my evolution exam, I was sitting in class talking to my friend, JP-F. She's taking animal physiology lab this semester and apparently, it's an amazing lab (I believe it). JP-F was recounting how in lab yesterday they had to do an experiment where the frog/toad they were using had to be dead. Well, some people weren't able to kill their frogs/toads all the way, so they were still partly alive, and it was quite disturbing.

At this moment, EC-F turned around to comment how amazing that lab is, lol. A few seconds more of discussion and JP-F mentions another experiment she found disturbing. In this one, they had to cut a rat's tail near the base where it meets the body to collect blood samples (I don't think they cut the tail off). Apparently, blood goes everywhere as the rats run around in pain (heck, I would).

I commented with something like: "In research, my lab cuts off the very tip of mice tails to get DNA samples. You can only cut the tails before a certain age because if the mice are young enough, the nerve endings haven't connected to the end of the tail yet, so they don't feel pain."

Okay, I must note that I dislike hurting/killing things with the exception of certain insects (flies, mosquitoes, ants, wasps, the like). I try to avoid stepping on worms and such, and I don't even like harming plants, well possibly because I love plants.

So anyway, EC-F mentioned how people cut the tails off dogs when they're puppies. JP-F and I looked at her in kind of a dull shock for a few seconds. So, part of the tails of hunting dogs are cut off, and some other dogs have their tails "modified" for aesthetic purposes. I would imagine that it'd hurt, and EC-F and JP-F certainly agreed. Then EC-F was like, "The dog thing is kind of like circumcising male human infants. It hurts but they don't remember it."

Well at this point, with the mentioning of that one word, a really weird and uncomfortable feeling came over me. It wasn't like a chilling effect. It was more like a "my stomach collapsed and all my internal organs are rearranging themselves" kind of feeling (you get the idea, yes?). It was quite uncomfortable. All I could manage to say was, "That doesn't make it right nor acceptable." (And seriously, just because babies don't remember it doesn't make it right nor acceptable.) Why does that one word - circumcise (and its variations) - disable me so when said out loud? Here I am - someone who has no problems dissecting a mouse or frog, who can watch surgeries and eat pizza at the same time (actually, that's a short scene from the first season of Grey's Anatomy, but I could if the situation came up) amongst other things, but that one word makes me shudder. It's weird, and it's kind of like my fear of heights.
-----
Okay, change of topic. My Chinese presentation is taking too long. Grrr, it sucks that it has to be all in Chinese (logically). I just happen to choose a fairly difficult topic to talk about and am having to look up translations to words I'll probably never use again. I guess I'll work on it later. I had contemplating not sleeping tonight, but that wouldn't have been a good idea and I've never pulled an all-nighter and don't intend to.

Now, to quote my roommate, DvF-M: "You're a weird man, Aek." Well, that I am. :P

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tea and Water

I've recently discovered (re-discovered?) the joys of tea, particularly green tea. For whatever reason, I average a cup of tea almost every day. Last year (and all the years before) I almost never drank tea, but I really like tea, almost as much as coffee. However, tea is far easier to prepare: boil water, put some tealeaves in a cup (no teabags here), and then pour hot water in. Then let it cool until you can drink it without burning your tongue. Good coffee (or the ones I really like) I can only get in a coffee shop, like Starbucks or something . . . and that can get expensive.

Milk tea or bubble tea is also really good, but it takes some effort (particularly to make the bubbles - tapioca takes a while to "cook"). Milk tea I make or drink only when I have time/am bored. Bubble tea I go to a tea shop to get, like Bubble Island or something. It's such an Asian thing, haha. But it's really really good, in my opinion. Plus in a shop like Bubble Island, you can get many different flavors added to it like strawberry, blueberry, mango, papaya, etc.

Okay, now I've a peculiarity when drinking water. When I drink water by itself, I like it either at room temperature or slightly colder. I generally don't like drinking cold/ice water by itself. I have a large bottle of water in my room that I periodically drink from when I'm too lazy to walk to the kitchen/fridge to get water. So that bottle of water's always at room temperature. My roommate, DvF-M, simply can't understand this or why I do this (he likes his water cold).

I pretty much only drink cold water with food (and even then I don't like it that cold), and I only drink hot water if it's used to mix with something like tea, honey, or coffee. Oh! Hot honey water is amazing! Especially when you have a cold or persistent cough. It helps soothe the throat and clear the sinuses (a little). It's really good at warming you up on cold days. I also drink it (or tea) when I'm stressed because it sometimes helps me calm down. So yeah, put a tablespoon of honey in a cup of hot water, stir, and enjoy.

In retrospect, this was a very random and rather pointless post. Oh well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mask of the Poet

Many years ago, in middle and high school, I had a mask - the Mask of the Poet. I wrote quite a number of poems (not all of them good), and I exercised fairly poetic writing even in my essays and papers. Poetry was like music with words on the page - it was elegant, beautiful, flowing. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was one of several outlets for the many things floating in my brain (I cannot emphasize the word "many") that would've been either bottled up or forgotten.

Since then, this Mask has slowly "cracked" over the years from disuse. There was a time when rhyme and meter almost came effortlessly to me, but not so now. This isn't all bad, as there's a lot of great poetry without either of those. Recently I wrote two poems, lingering shadows of this Mask.
-----
Pandora's Gift

The great sins of our species haunt us,
The ghosts of history taunt us.
Yet while I breathe, while I live,
I cling to Pandora's final gift.

The lid was not tightly closed . . .
It whispers in our ears and dwells in our hearts.
Against all the evils that plague us,
It lets us taste redemption.

Its voice rings clear in the dark -
Words of encouragement,
Words of empowerment,
Words of unyielding optimism:

Let laughter dry the tears we've shed,
Let mercy heal the wounds we've bled,
Let love give birth to new life,
Let hope be the refutation of our sins.

Unless darkness consumes us all,
Unless light cannot penetrate the shadows,
I will cling to Pandora's final gift -
I cling to Hope.


In This I Believe

I believe we're meant to be imperfect,
That the Forms1 are mere illusions.
I believe the best of us can still fall,
And the worst of us can be redeemed.

I believe the more humanity progresses,
The more we're mired in our past;
But hope drives us to escape,
And in this we see reflected truths.

I believe that while fists are strong,
Words are stronger than fists,
Hugs are stronger than words,
And laughter is stronger than all.

I believe that life is an unending cycle,
Where we search for who we are,
And only after reaching Enlightenment
Can we then return to humanity2.

I believe in circles:
That what once was will be again,
That what is will repeat in time,
And only change is unchanging.

I believe "You must be the change
You wish to see in the world3."
I believe fate is ours to mold.
I believe in those most dear to me.

In this, I believe . . .

Notes
1. Plato's Forms represent the true perfect and unchanging versions of worldly physical objects or ideas.
2. Refers to the 9th and 10th pictures in the Buddhist "Ten Oxherding Pictures" (also called "Taming the Ox") by Kakuan, from 12th-century China. The 9th picture is completely blank, representing one transcending the self and reaching Enlightenment. But in the 10th picture, one then returns to humanity to teach Enlightenment.
3. "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi.
-----
Etched remnants of what once was there . . . enjoy. Oh yeah, I finally added Closet NS to the blogs I read because I finally got around to reading his entire blog up to date. Hurray!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Aiya!

This is me being Asian (again, haha). Last week we learned one of the most amusing - and ubiquitous - Chinese phrases in class: 哎呀 (pinyin = aiya; pronounced like "eye-ya"). It's an interjection used to express wonder, shock, admiration, or complaint. I sometimes use it as the Chinese equivalent of "oops" or "crap." Yes, I do use it sometimes . . . albeit rarely.

Now I leave you with two YouTube vids, both by the Taiwanese group 2moro. Both are really cute (in more ways than one).

The first is called:
少了 which translates to "Less."


The second is called: 朋友出去走走 which sort of translates to "Friend goes out for a walk."


So enjoy (it's cuter if you know what the lyrics say, but whatever).

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cast of Characters

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," a line from Shakespeare's As You Like It, perhaps the famous line from that play (I don't know, I never read it). Because I don't really feel like writing a "real" post as there's nothing particularly interesting, it might be a good time to elaborate on all the major players in my life right now (or at least the ones I talk about). Also, this helps clarify my system of naming people on the blog and will hopefully make it a bit easier to follow (if it isn't right now). So without further ado, the major cast of characters in my life right now (in no particular order of importance):
-----
Men
JW-M: Political science and Asian studies double major, senior. He was my roommate freshman year and has remained one of my closest friends ever since. Very intelligent and understanding, also pragmatic and reasonable.

BW-M: Anthropology and linguistics double major, senior. JW-M's best friend and someone I had a pseudo-crush on during my freshman year (he often walked around without his shirt on). While he's also quite intelligent, he's among the more conservative of my friends and often cracks "gay jokes," which I find annoying.

JL-M: Psychology major, senior. He lived down my hall freshman year. I pretty much only see him when we meet up for lunch and when we work out. Being Asian-American like me, he sometimes provides interesting conversations in that respect.

ES-M: Soon-to-be engineering major (what kind exactly, I forget), freshman. He's the Malaysian guy I have a small crush in my Chinese class; regardless, he's cute, being a freshman and all. Our friendship pretty much stands at "study buddies," and is completely platonic. He's a very devout Christian, and has some conservative opinions that he usually keeps to himself.

SP-M: Biology major, senior. He's pre-med and is a friend from my high school who attends the same university I do. We've drifted apart a bit in the last 4 years, but we're still good friends when we're actually able get together. He's finally dating SN-F (see below), as RZ-F's been trying to set them up for over a year.

DvF-M: Math and physics double major, senior. He lived next door to me freshman year and across the hall sophomore year. He's one of my apartment-mates right now. He's alright, though he's also among my more conservative friends. As long as we don't talk about politics and academics, all's good.

AW-M: Music major, German minor, senior. He also lived down my hall freshman year and has been my roommate for the last 2 years. He's great. He's almost never around and is quite oblivious when he is around. His girlfriend has him by the leash so tightly it's kind of scary, and he's so nice and obedient. It's great though as it's almost like having my own room, which I essentially do like 80% of the time.

JR-M: Film major, junior. He doesn't go to my university, but we were next door neighbors for many years and we were really close friends. I would actually consider him one of my "best friends." He's very creative and driven, quite liberal and open, but also really busy so it's hard to get a hold of him nowadays.

CM-M: Computer science engineering major, junior. He's one of JR-M's best friends and a good friend of mine. He attends my university, plays the piano and violin, and is a pretty good composer. He actually composes the film scores for JR-M as well as sometimes plays as one of his actors. He's a really nice guy, and has become quite attractive in recent years (in a strange dorky way). I wish I could "blossom" like that, haha.


Women
SR-F: 2nd year pharmacy student (would be a senior otherwise). She plays the violin and we've been in the same trio since freshman year. She also lived the floor above me back then. She's one of my closest friend and the only person I've "come out" to. She's also very Jewish.

JW-F: AOSS (atmospheric, oceanic, and space sciences) major, senior. She's been SR-F's roommate for the last 2 years. She lived down my hall freshman year and we met in the most interesting way (I'll write about that later, if I haven't already, and I don't think I have). She plays the cello and is my stand partner in 2 orchestras this year. She's also Jewish but considers herself a "bad Jew" as she doesn't stay kosher and is a somewhat vocal atheist. Also very liberal.

RZ-F: Biology major, senior. She's pre-med and also lived down my hall freshman year. She can be quite intense and very "Chinese" at times. I'm kind of surprised that she hasn't gotten into a med school yet (I'm not doing too well on this front, as of this moment). We were almost dating last year, we did so much together and hung out quite a bit. But I stopped it just short before an attraction developed because I wasn't ready and needed to be alone to "figure myself out."

SN-F: Biology major, senior. She's also pre-med (gee, a pattern, go figure) and has been RZ-F's roommate for all 4 years at the university now. She got accepted to Case Western and OSU, which goes without saying since she's an Ohio resident, has a 4.00 GPA, got a 36 MCAT, has done quite a bit of research, volunteered at the university hospital, etc etc. I'm so inadequate compared to her stat-wise for med school. Alas. Oh yeah, and she's now dating SP-M. They're so different yet it somehow works out really well. It's rather adorable.

MW-F: Was a MSE (material science engineering) major, but is now a nun (or a nun-in-training). What?! you might ask. Well, she was one of my friends from high school who attended the same university as me for 3 years. She was the violist in our trio for 3 years. She's a very devout Catholic and quite conservative, but she also tends to keep her opinions to herself and doesn't judge too much. But, she recently decided that she wanted to be a nun after visiting the Vatican. Alas, she's pretty much beyond reach now. I do miss her and her viola.
-----
So there you have it, the major friends in my life. Some of them I probably won't mention much, others are far more recurrent players. There are also many more people that aren't mentioned here who were probably once more important in my life. But so many of us have drifted apart over the years, and that does make me sad.

Oh well, time for sleep. I've a long 2 weeks ahead of me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Exhausted

I think my exhaustion from being a chronic insomniac is starting to peak . . . I simply haven't gotten enough sleep lately - 5 to 6.5 hours a night is NOT enough. Here are two major signs:

1. Forgetfulness
So during my Chinese test today, I forgot how to write part of my Chinese name. After freezing up for about 5 seconds, I proceed to write a small part of it wrong, catching myself right after I turned in my exam and left the room. Forgetting like this is kind of like forgetting how to tie your shoes, then proceed to do it slightly differently than you used to. Things like this just don't happen. To get a sense of what the mistake might look like, an analogy would be spelling "field" incorrectly in cursive by dotting the "e" instead of the "i," something stupid like that. Sigh.

2. Irritability/irrationality
So, I was trying to figure out how to type Chinese on my laptop. I thought I had it, but something was weird. So I asked my friend, JW-M to help me. He took my mouse and accidentally hovered over what I was downloading (gay porn, haha) for a split second. I don't think he bothered to read (or realize even) the little bubble that popped up, but I kind of mini-freaked. So I grabbed my mouse back and made a tiny scene, which made me feel stupid afterwards. Oh well. I should really "come out" to him, as he's one of few people I totally trust. He was my roommate freshman year for crying out loud (and a pretty good one at that).

Okay, enough of this. I will sleep now.

---TANGENT---
So, I've noticed in recent weeks that there seems to be a disproportionate number of left-handed people on campus. About 10% of the general population is left-handed, but that percentage appears to be much higher on campus. Being left-handed myself, my eyes kind of gravitate directly to which hand people are using. Now, what does this mean. Are left-handed people smarter? Hmmm . . . Okay, sleep now, I swear.
---END TANGENT---

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Totally Made My Day

And this is also me being Asian . . . and a dork. This happened in the middle of my Chinese class today:

BF-M: ::cell phone goes off, half the class laughs::
ML-F: You dork! Your ring tone's from Bleach*!!
BF-M: How do you know?!
ML-F: Because I'm a dork too.

Bleach* is a really sweet anime (in my opinion). The only other anime I'm watching currently is Naruto Shippuuden.

So yeah, half the class (maybe more) laughed at his ring tone, which was one of the Bleach opening themes. It's "D-tecnolife" by UVERworld. We're so Asian, watching anime and all, haha.

Here's a YouTube clip of the 2nd Bleach opening with D-tecnolife as the theme.


Yup, totally made my day.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rally!

I'm so sore, particularly in my legs and sides. Why, you might ask? Because I was playing Rally. What's Rally, you might wonder? Well, it's a game that several of my friends and I invented 2 years ago. In a quick summary, Rally is kind of somewhere in between American football (not to be confused with football in the rest of the world, aka soccer) and rugby, only it's non-contact. Here are the rules (to the best of my memory):
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Setup
The field is set up similarly to a football field with 2 end-zones, one on either side. There are no "backs" to the end-zones.

There are 2 teams, preferably with 4+ players on each team. There is, as of yet, no upper limit to how many people there can be on each team so long as there are the same number of players on each team.

Rules of the ball
Rally uses either an American football or a rugby ball, depending on the preference of the players. We (my friends and I) prefer to use a rugby ball.

There are 3 things you can do with the ball: a forward pass (overhand), a free pass (underhand), or keep the ball.
- A forward pass is where the ball is thrown forward overhand, like in football. If a forward pass is incomplete, the ball is automatically turned over to the opposing team where it hits the ground.
- A free pass is where the ball is thrown underhand in any direction. If a free pass is fumbled, the ball is "live" and anyone can pick up the ball and the game continues.

Game progression
Rally begins with either a kickoff or a throw to the opposing team. The opposing team may then do one of two things: pick up/catch the ball and "knee" where the ball stops rolling, or pick up/catch the ball and start running.

When a player knees (or "takes a knee"), he/she gets a "free send." During a free send, the player with the ball cannot be tagged, but he/she can't move from the spot either. He/she must throw the ball to a team member. You can never throw the ball to yourself (because that's just cheap).

If you're tagged (one-handed) by an opponent while you have the ball, you must turn over the ball to that opponent where you were tagged. That opponent then gets a free send. Anyone can call tags: if you're tagged and you know it, you call tag on yourself; if you tag someone and you know it, you call tag on them; if you see someone get tagged, you call tag on them; etc.

Whenever an opponent either intercepts or recovers the ball from a free pass fumble, he/she has the option of kneeing and giving a free send instead of immediately running.

One point is awarded when a team makes a touchdown in the opposing team's end-zone. The losing team must then walk to the other end-zone and await a kick/throw to begin the next round.
-----
That's pretty much it, it's a fairly simple and straight-forward game. There's a couple situation-specific rules that were made on-the-spot because we had to, and there was something called a "rally" that I can't quite remember what it was. But if memory serves me correctly, a rally is rather difficult to get, so it's awarded 2 points when it is. Incidentally, one of my friends actually has a rule book that he made up for Rally - it's fairly detailed.

Anyway, we played Rally for over 2 hours right before the football game. It was wet, muddy, and lightly raining while we played. There was much slipping, sliding, falling, and fumbling. Compound that with standing for 3 hours at the football game and my legs are essentially shot. And today I almost couldn't get out of bed because my legs were so sore, but it was SO worth it.

I'm nowhere near the most athletic person playing Rally, but I can hold my own. I'm not the fastest, but I'm not the slowest; I'm not the best thrower/catcher, but again I'm not the worst either. I'm "bad" enough that I'm often forgotten about, but good enough that I shouldn't be underestimated (which I often am, an advantage to me). I tend to assume support/assist roles, where I either recover a fumble and pass it to a "better" player or I recover the ball and finish it into the end-zone for a touchdown. In multi-player computer games I also tend to assume such roles, either by augmenting my friend's armies with my own as backup, or by being the healer. I guess it's just part of my nature to support.

So grab 7+ friends and start playing Rally yourself. It's great and easy to learn, and I certainly hope it becomes a college phenomenon long after I graduate. Brought to you by Aek of the Midwest.