Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back Home!

I'm back home from California. The first thing I noticed when walking out of the airport were clouds and the smell of recent rain. Ah, the Midwest. California was really nice, but I do miss the "wetness" in the air, clouds, and green lawns. And also the lack of smog, or visible air pollution, that's always a plus.

On the plane home, I was typing 6 damn essays for my secondary applications (at least these are the last of them, for now . . .). There went 2 very unpleasant hours. After a while, my essays tend to become "Franken-essays," or basically parts of other essays stitched together by transition sentences and such. It actually works pretty well when the prompts are similar. Oh, I already got rejected from Chicago-Pritzker. Oh well, I don't think I expected to get an interview from them anyway. But it would've been nice . . .

Two more days before I return to college! I'm so excited, but alas I'll miss the first football game of the season. Oh well, at least I gave my ticket to my brother's roommate, however crappy that consolation is. But before I can move into my apartment, I need to take a stupid Chinese placement exam tomorrow so I can (hopefully) keep my seat in a class I enrolled in. At least I'll get a chance to hang out with a good friend of mine that I hadn't seen since school ended in May. That ought to be fun.

Monday, August 27, 2007

San Francisco's Art Museums

So I've been to 3 art museums in San Francisco in the last 3 days (or rather 2 days, since we didn't spend yesterday at any art museums). I'm getting kind of sick of them and I'm constantly reminded why I'm not an art history major (no offense to art history majors, I'm sure it's fascinating . . . to someone). The 3 we went to were the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and the Legion of Honor museum.
Asian Art Museum: I actually really liked this museum on the whole. It exhibited pieces of art spanning several thousand years from several Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and India. It's interesting to see how all the oriental art looked a little similar to each other (evidence of heavy cross-cultural sharing) and yet at the same time, quite distinct. I'm glad I took a course on Chinese culture, history, and art last semester. I just really liked the diversity of the art displayed.

Then we got to the section on Buddhist and Hindu art. They were mostly sculptures. It was cool at first, but it was evidently religious art, and not very creative and original after a certain point. After a while, all Buddhas looked similar, all Brahma's, Vishnu's, and Shiva's looked similar. Although, I must admit I really liked the sculptures of Ganesha (my favorite Hindu god), even if they got a bit repetitive. Ganesha's just really awesome, I mean he's a happy-go-lucky god who frolics around with his favorite bowl of sweets. He's also the Hindu god of wisdom and knowledge or something.

SFMOMA: Okay, I really don't like most of what's considered "modern art." I just find it hard to understand, much less care about. I can, however, appreciate it for what it is. Even if an artist just has a painting of pure white paint and nothing else, it can be appreciated because while anyone else "can" do it, only that artist actually "did" it. That's what one of my 9th grade English teachers emphasized to us: that we shouldn't criticize something because we think it's simple and something that anyone can do, because while that may be the case, only that artist actually did it. And that says something.

Legion of Honor: This was mostly Renaissance art. Hence, 90% of it was religious (Christian) art. Like all religious art, it's cool at first. Then it seems to get repetitive and rather uncreative really fast. I mean, all nativity scenes look similar. All paintings of Christ being impaled on the cross look rather similar. Even the non-religious art, such as a still-life of a bowl of fruit, looks the same after a while. This isn't to say, however, that I didn't find works of art that I really liked.
All in all, I found things that weren't religious to be more original and (to me) better. Religious art just seems like the same things over and over again, regardless of religion. I also began to notice how violent and militaristic a lot of Renaissance art was. Angels and armies wielding swords, demons devouring people, Christ bleeding from multiple wounds, it gets vicious. I think sometimes these works of art may inadvertently send a wrong message to "non-believers."

It was also interesting how peaceful and calm Buddhist art was. All the sculptures were unarmed, holding mostly bells, drums, flowers, and sitting on lotuses. It's rather laid back, as far as religious art goes. Only thing is, a lot of them also had more than 2 arms.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Testing Something with YouTube

Hmm, just an attempt to see how to post YouTube vids to a blog. I really like this vid, particularly when I was taking biochem last semester. It's called "The Inner Life of the Cell" and yeah, I'm a dork. But it's so cool.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Next Phase of Summer

I finished my research at the lab on Thursday. It's kind of hard to believe that I've been working in that lab for the last 4 summers, how quickly time moves. I'll finally have my name in 2 scientific papers (when they get published) and that's really exciting. The only annoying thing is that I haven't been paid in full yet this summer, grrr. I hate that university's administration branch, so slow and incompetent. I need to send an email to this guy to make sure I get paid however much I'm supposed to under the undergrad program I worked through. Sigh.

Every time a person leaves the lab, the entire lab goes out to lunch. This time we went to Buffalo Wild Wings. One of the post-docs didn't come in for work and met us there. He was "preparing," haha. The other post-doc was fasting to see if he could bring his cholesterol down before his next doctor's visit, and he was so torn between going and not. He didn't end up going. The rest of the lab convinced our PI to go since he wasn't originally too keen on it.

So there we were, at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was pretty good, it's only the second time I've been there. The post-doc was trying to break the record of 36 boneless chicken wings, but he only got to 20. 8 of them had to be the hottest wings they have, which are Blazin. But the Blazin at this place was rather mild compared to the Blazin I had in another city. The other undergrad who goes to my university ate 19, and I ate 18 without anyone noticing until hours later. As they said, I "flew under the radar." I tend to be good at doing that, most of the time. But yeah, lab lunches are always loads of fun. The lab paid for me and the PI (that's how they convinced him to go, though he forgot about that by the time we got there). Food is truly one of those things that can bring people together.

Of course we went back to the lab afterwards and felt completely unproductive from being so full. That always happens too. Leaving that lab for perhaps my last time felt really strange. But it was a good ending. The 3 undergrads in the lab (including myself) left at the same time, so we took the elevator down together. I remember leaving for my car with nothing more than a wave goodbye and a laughing smile (at what? I wonder). In a way, it was almost like a cheesy movie ending.

What's weirder to think is that the lab will probably have a complete turn-over in a year or two. I'm leaving the lab this summer and so is the other undergrad who goes to my university. The last undergrad will stick around for at least another year. One of the two grad students will be graduating by next May, so he'll be gone. And one of the post-docs, unless he can secure a grant very soon (best of luck to him), will probably have to find a new lab next year as well. So that really leaves the PI, one post-doc, one grad student, and maybe one undergrad. The size of the lab will be cut in half, and that's kind of depressing.

But everyone at some point will go their separate ways, and life moves on. While this is sad, it's nice to think that each parting is a good one, and I don't believe in true goodbyes. And with each ending there is a new beginning, so onto the next phase of summer for me.

A few days of limbo at home, filling out applications like crazy. Apparently I'm getting snappy, so clearly I've been at home for way too long. It's okay though, because in a few days I'll be visiting other relatives in CA with my family. I love CA, it's great - great weather, great food. The only thing about the Midwest that I miss when I'm in CA is the lawn, which is kind of weird to think of. I don't think I'd miss snow too much, since in my state the weather's so fickle anyway that winters are more just cold than snowy. And I don't like the cold much, I don't think I'm evolved for it. Anyway, I'll be in the Bay Area (Milpitas, San Jose, San Francisco, etc) of CA for 8-9 days. But as soon as we come back, my brother and I will have to move back to the university. Basically, we must pack not only for CA, but also for college right now.

I'm really happy about people commenting on this blog. It's one of those things I suppose (I'm so easily amused). Anyway, since I don't know if this blog thing has a reply function to comments, I'll probably just post my replies to questions I see in the comments. So if you post a question in your comment, look for my answers there too sometime later.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Masks of Sexuality III

I don't really know what to say in this one, but I said I'd do a set of three. I guess I'll start with a comment from Pete of Falling off a log.

It seems in the first post of this series, Masks of Sexuality I, I forgot to mention maternal effect. Biologically, maternal effect is where certain things (transcription factors, hormones, etc) in the mother's womb (or eggs in non-mammalian species) can/do influence the outcome of the children. Pete mentioned studies where increased hormone exposure (I think it's increased estrogen) was correlated with a male child being gay. And another study where fraternal twins, specifically one girl and one boy, can influence the sexual orientation of one or the other to be homosexual.

Personally, I don't like to take these kinds of studies at face value. I like to think that with behavior, there are different mechanisms of control than just maternal effect. Of course it can and probably does play a role, but perhaps not as much as the studies tend to make it seem. In science there's an important difference in understanding a correlation (however strong) with cause-effect, because really only cause-effect can be tested. Correlations might be interesting, but they can also be false. Hurray, I actually remember something useful from my stats class (most boring class EVER, so thankful for the invention known as coffee)!

So now, what else to write. I think I'll write about what I "think" my attractions are to either girls or guys. Yeah, I've spent way too much time in analyzing such things about myself. Alright, so, girls first. The order of attraction goes sort of like: face, personality, body. The face is a big thing, and a good funny/amusing personality is a must. Intelligence is also a must. A hot body is nice but not absolutely necessary, just "good enough" will do. I'm actually rather attracted to fairly average-looking women for some reason, might be their attitude though. They tend to not be as snobby or think they're "all that." There was this really hot sophomore in a study group I led - perfect breasts (not too big, not too small), flat stomach, toned arms and legs, nice face, good attitude - alas she has a boyfriend (again? I fall for the wrong people). I'm also attracted to Asian women more, but I think that goes with the cultural atmosphere I was raised in. But there are also various other cultural reasons that I won't get into here.

My attraction to guys is somewhat different. Again, the face is perhaps the first thing I notice. But then the body - slim and toned, not too muscular but not bordering anorexic thin either. Personality-wise, I've never met a guy who I think "matched" mine. That's kind of weird I guess, perhaps I'm looking for something I haven't found yet, I don't know. Anyway, one of the most appealing things about guys over girls is the anatomical knowledge. You know what feels good on you and you can bet it probably feels good on another guy too. Like when a guy orgasms and ejaculates, you know how good that feels and you can visually tell when that happens. There's something very appealing and arousing about that. With women, who knows, they could be faking it the whole time for all I know (and that's annoying to think about). This is also why I prefer male porn to female porn, because in male porn you know when he orgasms but with women, you never really know (if someone can tell, please teach me to figure it out).

So like the other posts, where does this leave me? It almost seems I'm more emotionally attracted to women but I'm definitely more physically attracted to men. But I think in any long-lasting relationship there needs to be both emotional and physical attraction. This leaves me more confused and uncertain, but more clear about where I stand. Which is to say, somewhere between worlds. So yeah, definitely the most disjointed conglomeration of thoughts pieced into a single post thus far, for me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Masks of Sexuality II

Okay, so enough of the biological analysis and speculation. This post is more of a "back story" and personal history, and will probably be very embarrassing for me. Alas. In reflection, this might also be somewhat weird.

I remember as a little kid going through this random period where I thought models were kind of cool, and for the period of maybe a few months to a year, I sometimes posed in family photos; so glad I grew out of that phase really quickly. [Terribly embarrassing to look at these photos now, I wish I could burn all of them.] I also played with dolls and action figures indiscriminately, usually at the same time. I pretty much played with any toy that was there, and they were always given some kind of superhuman powers, particularly flight and super-strength. I most liked Legos though. Legos and puzzles were awesome; I liked building things and planning things. Then destroying them (haha), then rebuilding them. Didn't much like cars, still don't care too much about cars unless I'm going to buy one.

In elementary school I also played soccer for 2-3 years. I played defense, which I sucked at because I wasn't very aggressive. Soccer is not my game and I always felt awkward playing it. Throughout all of middle (junior high) and high school I sucked at sports and hated gym. The only thing I liked was swimming because I tended to be better than most people, having taken years of swimming lessons (which I also hated at first).

I hated changing in the locker room. Most guys spent more effort covering themselves than looking at each other, but even still, discrete peeks were still easy. In 5th grade we had some sex ed and it left me confused and extremely curious, on top of my already insane curiosity at that age. And in 6th grade was the first time I really understood what circumcision was, as most guys around me were circumcised and thus different from me. It was a curiosity, and I wondered why those guys had a part of their penis cut off and how they could stand everything being exposed and rubbing against underwear and such. I suppose my curiosity grew more and more, and I wanted to peek more (always discretely of course).

Looking back, this curiosity must've been the catalyst for everything afterwards and probably how my sexuality then developed. I think I was around 12-years-old when I first masturbated and ejaculated. Thankfully I knew what to expect (though I didn't know what masturbation was) and so semen didn't surprise me. It felt good and I had no inhibitions about it, other than I knew it's something I should do in private so my parents and brothers didn't find out.

Back to circumcision, I was still really curious. And I researched it on the internet with our dial-up. That took forever. The info I found made me go either, "Well, isn't this procedure kind of pointless and potentially bad?" or "I never had any problems with mine, so why do people make such a huge deal to have it done?" Of course it led to more questions and more curiosity, and then some personal quiet activism against it later.

In any case, I can't say I went through a period of raging hormones and instantly fell head-over-heels attracted with either guys or girls. This is kind of weird, now that I think about it. Perhaps I really suppressed any semblance of sexuality in middle/high school, I don't know. I mean, I found girls attractive. Just not quite sexually. I found guys attractive and admired (and really envied) those with really good bodies. For the longest time I convinced myself that my attraction to guys was really admiration and envy. Around this time I discovered porn online. I don't know how and I also don't know how I did so with dial-up. Of course, everything was just pics, no movies or anything until really my freshman year of college. Even looking at gay porn, I was still convincing myself I was just admiring/envying their bodies (which I do, to some extent). Naked pics of women never really did much for me. I equated most naked pics of women with sluts, and sluts aren't attractive to me at all. Though I must admit, sometimes (albeit rarely) they can turn me on if it's just right, or if I look at them long enough (but I'm too impatient for that).

In middle school all my friends were guys. I did talk to some girls and never really felt awkward around them. In fact, I usually felt more comfortable talking to a girl I didn't know compared to a guy I didn't know. I guess girls are just easier to talk to or something. In high school and later in college, I started having two major groups of friends - one was almost all guys, the other was almost all girls. I find this dichotomy rather funny actually. I'll change between the two groups depending on my mood, which changes rather frequently. I enjoyed that flexibility.

And that's more or less a summary of my sexual/social development until college. I was a fairly shy kid with a few close friends and many casual friends that I associate with in only certain situations and such. Some of my friends in college actually say I'm one of the most outgoing persons they've met from the way I approached them and became friends. That amused me because I always felt the exact opposite. Perhaps I'm not as shy as I used to be, or I'm just not as shy as I thought, who knows.

The first time I had a real crush was in my freshman year of college, a long time coming. Unfortunately she had a boyfriend. I then developed a crush on my roommate's best friend, but he's straight and fairly conservative, and he has a girlfriend (who he recently proposed to and now they're engaged). Then I developed another crush on a girl my sophomore year, but alas I found out she also had a boyfriend. As a result, I've temporarily given up on sexual relationships. Oh, and throughout all this, I still hadn't confronted what my sexuality might be. Kind of just kept avoiding it.

There were two relationships with two girls that could've developed into something. I stopped it short at being "just friends" because in one encounter, I was really busy with classes and I felt there was an inherent cultural difference that I foresaw being potentially a problem down the road. And the other I truncated last year so I could work out my sexuality on my own throughout the course of the year (I might revisit that relationship again, if she doesn't have a boyfriend by now). So basically I'm left with never have had a sexual relationship, never kissed/been kissed. That's depressing.

So that's pretty much all up-to-date: no experiences, now willing, and not knowing what to do. I am glad that I've gotten better at sports though (thanks to my guy friends here at college), and I rather like some sports now like football. But particularly racquetball and tennis. And the gym isn't so bad anymore.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Masks of Sexuality I

So of course this post was bound to come sooner or later. Might as well be now. I feel like there are many masks of sexuality, it's not just "sexuality." What mask a person wears depends on the situation and the people he's around at that time. You'd act one way around your guy friends, another way around your girl friends, another way around your parents/siblings, and yet another way around the person(s) you love (sexually). So sexuality is a rather amorphous thing, in my opinion, and it's like everything else in my philosophy: it's quite simple, but also so incredibly complex.

In this first post (in a series of probably 3), I want to take on the ambitious undertaking of explaining my reasoning for heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, and why they must exist. Of course, being the science person I am, my explanation will skew towards biology, but with a bit of anthropology and psychology mixed in. So this is going to be a LONG post (just a warning). The first question seems to always be, is sexuality nature or nurture? Is it in-born or a choice? In both of those I believe it's both, and here's why.
1. Nature - genes
I don't believe there is a "gay gene," that's too simple for something as complex as human sexuality and behavior. Rather, it's more likely that there are a set of genes governing basic sexuality that have an additive effect; basically, the more of those genes are turned on/off, the greater the effect is to either side of the spectrum. For the purpose of this hypothetical set of genes, let there be 10 genes, with "on" being heterosexual and "off" being homosexual. In this way, it allows for a wide spectrum of sexuality.

Now if all 10 genes are "on" then the person is overwhelmingly heterosexual. And if all 10 genes are "off" then the person is overwhelmingly homosexual. I believe most people probably have 1 or 2 genes turned off, so they're slightly bisexual. This part is fairly simple. But can it explain why most people are heterosexual? Yes, it can.

Take for example, sickle-cell anemia. It's a mutation that's bad if a person is homozygous for it (meaning they have both sickle-cell genes). But heterozygotic individuals (with 1 normal gene and 1 sickle-cell gene) are fine and don't harm the fitness of the group, and being heterozygous for sickle-cell anemia actually protects one from malaria. So in this way, most people are still homozygous for not having sickle-cell anemia, but the gene for sickle-cell is kept in the population at low proportions because the heterozygotes are favored over both and live to pass on that mutation.

I think sexuality is much the same way. You have so many people with the genes turned on that it just overshadows those with it turned off. But since many (if not most) people have at least a few of those genes turned off, it stands to reason that some proportion will arise where all the genes are turned off. So some small proportion of the population will be homosexual, and everything in between that and heterosexual. This is very much like sickle-cell in a sense because sickle-cell only individuals don't survive, and homosexuals probably won't reproduce to pass on their genes either. So it rests to the majority with some of those genes turned off to pass that on. If this were on a curve, with 0 = all off and 10 = all on, then the curve would probably be skewed towards 10 (or rather, closer to 7 to 9) so the area under the curve is the greatest towards that end.

2. Nature - evolution
Now, some argue that homosexuality doesn't make sense in evolutionary terms, because one of the key things about evolution is that the fittest survive to pass on their genes. How then can homosexuality be reconciled with evolution if homosexual individuals are clearly not the fittest because their behavior makes it unlikely for them to pass on their genes? Well, I've an interesting theory (and a different take than other biologists).

There are studies looking at homosexuality in various animal species. It's interesting to see how homosexuality behavior seems to be mostly present in social mammals with few/no natural predators. In these situations, what factors or mechanisms might help to prevent overpopulation? Overpopulation is clearly a problem that's not conducive to fitness, and having too many individuals fighting for limited resources will put excessive burden on the environment until everything collapses. I think it's possible that homosexuality behavior in such social mammals might serve as an internal mechanism to help prevent/slow overpopulation.

The article in the gay animal link above actually says that most animals aren't strictly homosexual, but rather have some kind of bisexuality. Even so, enough individuals at any one time will be with another individual of the same gender that a inhibition against overpopulation might still occur (not as strong as if the individuals were strictly homosexual, but still). Extrapolated to humans, with our current problems in overpopulation, homosexuality might be a good thing. And anyone who's against homosexuals unknowingly want the human population to grow beyond the Earth's ability to sustain us.

But also, sex is sex and sex feels good/is fun. For animals that are only in heat (can reproduce) for a few weeks/months out of the year, it's possible that they're really horny the remainder of the year. And if they can't have sex with the opposite gender, then sex with the same gender might help release some of that sexual tension. So in addition to population control, homosexuality might serve as a byproduct to release tensions that could otherwise build up and become unhealthy.

3. Nurture - culture
Now in my anthropology courses I've learned that the Western dichotomy between straight/gay isn't present in many other human cultures. And this is interesting. We are all products of our upbringing and circumstances. And this does have an effect on everything. For example, if you grew up in a household where education and hard work was emphasized, you're like to value education and hard work. But that isn't foolproof as you still have the choice and ability to rebel against that.

And some kind of bisexuality is tolerated or even encouraged and institutionalized in many cultures. Notably might be the ancient Greeks. Homosexuality wasn't seen as something offensive to the ancient Greeks, and many individuals were indeed bisexual as well. Some of it was institutionalized into laws and customs. If I remember correctly from something I saw on the History Channel, when Spartans married, the women would approach the men in men's clothing on the first nights of marriage because up to that point, the men have only had experiences with men and might feel awkward around a full woman. Homosexual encounters were allowed before marriage and sometimes even encouraged in the military, as it could foster brotherhood and camaraderie (take that "Don't ask don't tell policy").

So this is good and all, but how does it help explain our current cultures? Particularly Western culture? Well, the same cultural influences could (and do) pressure a person to conform towards the heterosexual majority. It could suppress any same-sex attraction that person may have because it's wrong or whatnot. And circumstances might play a role too. For example (although not a great example), if you were a gay guy and every guy you grew up with you found ugly, whereas all the girls you know are insanely hot for some reason, you're probably going to be more attracted to girls than guys. So this scenario doesn't exist in today's society due to our increasingly growing connection to every corner of the world, but at one point in time it might've been potentially relevant.

In summary, culture, society, circumstances, definitely play some role in determining sexuality. And that's why it forces so many into the proverbial closet. But again, it's not foolproof and people can consciously choose to rebel and come out of the closet. Yet in many other cases, it could even succeed into "brainwashing" people into following the majority unknowingly.
So that's my 3-point theory on sexuality. Of course I've no way to prove it (and I don't think anyone will develop a way anytime soon) so it's all speculation. Compared to the nature reasons, from which I drew and extrapolated some of my biology knowledge, the nurture argument seems weaker but I still consider it valid. The end point is, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality all exist, they all make sense, and they're probably all necessary.

That's my view anyway. Comments/opinions/feedback welcome.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Easily Amused

So I'm easily amused. All my friends know this (I think).

Today my brother was practicing his cello, which he doesn't do as often as he should. He was practicing some horrible etude/rhythm exercise when he exclaims, without stopping:

"What?! I missed a dot?! What the fuck?!"

Evidently, he forgot to play a dotted quarter note, and just played a quarter note instead. I don't know why I found this funny, but I find such random things funny.

Anyway, I feel I should also take some time in this post to thank everyone who has commented on this blog so far. It lets me know I'm not the only one reading this (and if you're reading this, please comment to make me happy). I love feedback, as long as it's not destructive. I would post more often, but my life just isn't that exciting right now. In the meantime, the only things I want to post are random "deep thoughts" type stuff, which takes me a while to organize and keep in my head since my brain is a bit ADHD sometimes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mask of Faith

I was not raised in a religious house, and the closest thing to religion was to live according to a rather Asian philosophy - to be concerned about this life and living a "good life" and how to achieve that life. The key was always education, as that opened the doors to everything and my parents have emphasized that like no other.

This is not to say that religion is foreign to me. My cello teacher was Lutheran, and we had recitals and concerts at the churches she belonged to. I also played for her church a few times for their Sunday morning service. When I went to Hong Kong in 5th grade, my mom and one of my brothers (and I) went to the grave of some family member I didn't know and prayed/paid our respects in the Chinese-Buddhist (not to be confused with Indian Buddhism) way. We also went to a monastery place in Hong Kong, and that was actually really cool. In my second semester at the university I'm attending, I had a class where we had to read parts of the Bible (as a piece of literature, not as a religious text) - that produced some very . . . interesting conversations between the Christians and the Jews in my discussion (I never want to experience that again). And towards the end of that class, I attended a Catholic mass with a devout Catholic friend of mine. I was amused that they read a passage from Matthew that I had to read for my class a few days prior. I also have some Jewish friends and celebrated a few Jewish holidays with them (mostly out of curiosity).

In all of those instances, the closest thing I've felt to God or anything Divine was in the monastery place. I've never really liked to discuss my beliefs and the topic of religion, as there's a lot of closed-mindedness there. But under this "Mask of Faith," suffice to say I don't belong to any one religion or world philosophy, but I have developed my own beliefs. And where did I find my beliefs? In my major - biology. It's interesting how many people either see science as an antithesis to religion or otherwise a way to disprove religion, but I disagree. I am more in concordance with Einstein and his beliefs on science and God.

There's also a line from Dan Brown's book Angels & Demons that I particularly liked (it's actually on my facebook profile). The line goes: "Science tells me God must exist. My mind tells me I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I am not meant to." It's such an elegant quote, so simple and true (for me).

So then, where do I "find God?" Or rather, as I'll call it, "the Divine." I'd have to say, in a leaf. Has anyone actually taken the time to look at a leaf, I mean, really look at it? (I'm talking about an archetypal leaf.) To notice how the top side is often darker than the underside, how there are veins running through it like veins under your skin, to see the patterns making up each leaf and iterated to all leaves of the same tree/plant. To see a world of complexity in something so "simple" as a leaf. And with some knowledge of how a leaf works - how chlorophyll works with a single atom of magnesium that literally resonates when struck by electrons that're powered by photons of light, like sound waves of an instrument, how photosynthesis turns carbon dioxide into oxygen and creates starch - how can one NOT be impressed by something so simple containing such complex mechanisms? And that's barely scratching the surface.

Here then, is a leaf. A massive collection of atoms and molecules that somehow knows what to do, something composed of non-living particles that acts with so much life. In the same sense, the regulation of DNA is equally amazing. How DNA fixes and prevents errors and mutations so effectively, is something to be awed. Even something like evolution provides such a simple yet complex explanation. I believe that it was Einstein who said something like "Science is the mind of God." And I believe it truly is, and we're just unlocking that mind.

So then, what might the sum of my beliefs be? That everything is connected in an endless cycle of birth, growth, death, and recycling. That life, consciousness, after-life, whatnot, is also a part of that endless cycle. Do I believe in reincarnation? Maybe, I don't know. But I believe everything has a reason, a meaning, a purpose - though it might be beyond human comprehension. I believe that everything is simple, and everything is, at the same time, complex (think of the leaf).

Again, there is a quote that sums this all up fairly well. It's from the movie Latter Days (a decent movie), and it goes: "When I was a little kid, I used to put my face right up to them [the Sunday comics] . . . and I was just amazed because, it was just this mass of dots. I think life is like that, sometimes. But, I like to think that from God's perspective, life, everything, and even this, makes sense. It's not just dots; and instead we're all connected. And it's beautiful, and it's funny, and it's good. From this close we can't expect it to make sense, right now."

There is so much more that I could say, but they're not coming to mind at the moment. Perhaps I'll leave it at this, for now. It seems like a decent start. I'd also like to say that perhaps "God" is not what we think, and all the religions and beliefs of the world are merely "manifestations and ways" for the Divine to reach people. If there is "one true religion," then honestly, why do all the other ones exist?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Ugh, I didn't get paid. I went to the office today with another undergrad who works with me to pick up my payment stub (I've direct deposit) and his paycheck, but it seems that they forgot to pay us. We were shocked and rather outraged. All they had to do was pay us once every other week, is that so hard to do or keep track of?! They, meaning the university I'm working in, have serious finance/administration issues it seems. If this were an organization or company, someone would be fired by now. Gah!!

It took over a month to get my paperwork through, and another month or so before my direct deposit took effect. That's more than a month of not getting paid at all! And when my paperwork did go through, they wanted me to fill out my timesheets online, but didn't give me an ID and password to do it. So the head of the office fills in the hours for me, which feels dubious. I've also worked, by now, A LOT more than I'm actually getting paid for, since I'm working there through an undergraduate program. So is the other undergrad. Wait until this one post-doc hears about this tomorrow morning, he'll go berserk for us, haha.

So it seems like I've almost NO "gaydar" whatsoever. This one chef on the show Top Chef, Dale Levitski, is gay, and I didn't realize this entire time (by the way, Top Chef is an awesome show - one of the few that I watch). I hope he makes it to the end, I like him and he's not an ass like some others on that show. Anyway, not that it matters really, I just find it amusing how my gaydar seems so non-existent. It seems to work for lesbians/bisexual women somewhat better though, but that's probably because I know several whereas I don't have any gay friends (none that I know of anyway).

The only time my gaydar works is if the guy's really "flamboyant" (i.e. wears very particular clothes, moves in a very particular way, talks with a lisp or whatever, etc), but those gay guys tend to bother me. I don't have anything against them, it's just one of those things that bothers me. I also have a sort-of policy of actively trying not to "judge a book by its cover" and I guess that constitutively represses what gaydar I might have.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Laptop!

So this actually happened a few days ago. My dad bought a laptop for himself, and not a bad one. He intended to buy me one in a few days from now, but then decided to just give the laptop he got for himself to me. It's a Dell and it's a bit bulky, but other than that I like it and it's better than the desktop PC I'm currently using (which will then be passed down to my brother when he attends the same university as me in the fall). The laptop my dad had considered buying for me technically wasn't going to be as good as the one he originally bought for himself anyway.

So I've a laptop now, yay! I've actually been looking forward to getting/having a laptop for about a year now. I think it's the portability of it, though I probably won't carry my laptop with me around a lot. But the fact that I can is what's enticing. Plus almost all my friends have laptops (and some have laptops in addition to their desktops, lucky bastards).

And now I have to do something really quick so no one notices - transfer all my porn from my desktop to the laptop before the desktop is passed over to my brother. Fortunately, I tend to delete most of my porn after I watch it since most porn doesn't really interest me. And looking through what I do have (and purging along the way), I've noticed a few things. The vast majority of my porn is mostly solo male masturbation, or something like that. It could be from a straight site or a gay site (as if that matters). The remaining porn is a mix of gay porn (2 guys, rarely more) and straight porn. It's actually kind of half and half at that point - gay porn doesn't do much for me most of the time, and I tend to be selective about straight porn.

And this also reminded me of a post on DTB about porn. Yeah, I think I do tend to spend too much time on porn, but it's more sorting through it and deciding what to keep/delete than actually watching it. I might be slightly obsessive-compulsive about keeping things orderly and such (in fact, I know I am).

Anyway, still very excited about my new laptop, even if I've spent very little time on it/with it in this last week or so.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Nothing of Interest

So I probably won't post much on this blog for a bit, as my life is so routine right now (and for a couple weeks yet) as to be boring. I wake up, brush my teeth, check my emails and random sites that I regularly go to, eat breakfast, and go to work. Work is overwhelming and I'm usually tired when I get home. So I get home, read the news online, surf the internet, work on my application essays, eat dinner, then take a walk or run, then "work" more on my application essays before going to bed.

In fact, Wednesday is the highlight of my week. Every Wednesday there's a seminar for undergrads where the grad students present their work, and there's free pizza. By the way, since I haven't mentioned yet, I work in a pharmacology lab. Pharmacology is basically the study of what drugs and chemicals do to cells. I've worked on breast cancer research in this lab before, and it's pretty cool. Anyway, back to the seminar. The person who "hosts" the seminar series this years is this really hot grad student. And I mean she's HOT. Perfect body - great legs, perfect sized breasts, flat stomach, smart, nice, everything. She even has a really awesome accent (she's clearly not American) but I don't know what kind of accent it is. It could be French, but I don't think so. I've a "thing" for foreign accents.

And she's the kind of person who's so attractive that it can make you feel "unworthy" to be with her (you know what I'm talking about?), not that she's all uppity and whatnot. In any case, she's way out of my league and significantly older than me. No chance, but I'm not complaining; I'm content with just being in the same room as her. At any rate, I've spent too much time basically waiting for love to fall into my lap and take my breath away. Things don't happen like they do in the fairy tales.