Monday, June 30, 2008

We are the Hands . . .

. . . of research. It's true. AG-F and I occupy one of the lowest tiers of in the lab hierarchy - freshly graduated lab technicians. The only people lower than us are high school students and undergrads. We are thus subject to the whims of lab politics. It's somewhat amusing really (to me, though AG-F hates it). We do whatever someone wants us to do.

In any case, I've learned to love pubmed as much as one can possibly love it. Actually, I don't love pubmed. It can be annoying to use. In retrospect, however, it has allowed me to look up medical journals without having to actually seek the physical copies of those journals. In all my four years of undergrad, I've only checked out a book from the library once, and that was in my first semester freshman year. Everything else I needed was from either pubmed or some online biology journal. I still printed these articles though, as I can't stand reading them on a computer and I like to highlight and write notes in the margins.

I gave up on my own project and lately have been helping AG-F with hers (and doing whatever bidding people higher up the hierarchy want). I've been assigned a new project, except I'm leaving the lab in 2-3 days and this project takes at least a month to complete under optimal situations. So again, I just help AG-F. A few months ago she showed me how to extract the cochleas (the snail shell looking thing, for those who aren't biologically inclined) of the inner ear from the heads of mice. I don't know if I've blogged about this before, but here it goes again if so.

Today we had to kill 6 mice and extract their cochleas - 4 wild-types and 2 mutants. The mutant mice are so cute! They're "dwarves," so they're tiny. They have cranio-facial deformities that actually make them look cuter. Too bad their mutations also make them deaf, unable to keep their body temperature up, and thin their bones. I felt a bit bad killing them. I don't like to kill things (except spiders, ants, flies, most other insects, and bacteria, they don't count). After the mice were dead, I decapitate them, skin the fur back on their heads, then bisect their heads length-wise with scissors. I then scoop the brains out on either side to expose the cochleas, and then pry the cochleas out with sharp forceps. Even though I was wearing gloves, my hands smelled like dead mice for a couple hours afterwards.

To a non-biologist I'm sure all this probably sounds inexplicably gruesome, gross, and intense. It is rather gruesome, but not as intense as it could be. At least the mice weren't alive as we did all this. I think there's some weird psychological thing that makes it way more bearable to do all this when they're dead than if they were still alive. Even though I don't have a problem doing this, I know I cannot be a surgeon. I don't care about the money; never did. For one thing, as I mentioned before, these mice are already dead when we dissect them. In surgery, a person's still alive and you want to not harm/kill them. I don't want that kind of burden - the thought of making a mistake that could be costly beyond my imagination is a kind of stress I do not want as a future doctor. I think I would often refuse to do even the "simplest" procedures involving cutting unless it were an emergency or something.

On something completely unrelated, my brothers have got me looking at the webcomic Questionable Content. Here are two recent strips:

The nerd in me rejoices. At some point I will go back and read all of them. When I have time . . . if I have that much time.

Oh, I just thought of something randomly. About 2 days ago my roommate DvF-M invited 3 of his Physics Club people over. They were watching Battlestar Galactica. I didn't think it could exist, but there were effectively 4 DvF-M's in the living room at once. One was enough!!

So, DvF-M is very loud. He doesn't have a "quiet/whisper" mode. And he doesn't know when to stop talking. And here they were, 3 other people who were equally loud and each kept trying to talk over the other to be heard. Eventually I couldn't hear the TV anymore as their voices drowned it out. They put the episodes on closed captioning. Seriously?!

And they weren't even paying attention to what they were watching!! They just sat there loudly criticizing what they were watching and the actors. Seriously?! I had to leave. Note to self: never watch a movie with one of them.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shifting Futures

Okay, I couldn't come up with a particularly pertinent title for this post. But I hate leaving things untitled - things need to have some kind of unique identity.

Anyway, plans have changed for tomorrow. I woke up this morning and remembered that tomorrow is my grandma's birthday. Since my grandparents are visiting us this summer, they're all coming out here to me to celebrate her birthday. I get to show her around campus and such, and they'll probably stay for lunch and dinner then return home (home is only an hour away, so not such a big deal).

This does, however, prevent my friend TR-M from visiting me tomorrow. Which is sad. This means no "coming out" moment tomorrow. Oh well. I called TR-M and we agreed that as soon as I got back from Chicago I would drop him a line so we could hang out. We have been friends since we were practically around 7-years-old. He needs to know. Only now it'll be later rather than sooner. If I possess nothing else, I possess a rather remarkable amount of patience.

Today I also said goodbye to SR-F. I'll be leaving for home this coming Thursday while she's going up north with her family on Tuesday. Since we're both busy tomorrow and Monday, today was our goodbye. We basically just walked around campus for about 2 hours, talking, and then we went to get bubble tea and popcorn chicken for perhaps the last time together. It's weird to think that I may never see her again . . . or any of my friends I said goodbye to, for that matter. It's kind of lonesome. ::inserts frowny face::

Who knows what the future brings. Things are always subject to change and we must take it all in stride. Perhaps years from now, twice my current lifetime thus far, I'll meet together with a friend. In the shifting futures of our lives, anything is possible.

On a completely different note (good idea to click to enlarge) . . .
I think this is a fairly accurate description. This comic never ceases to amuse me.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Okay, mind-dump here. Prepare yourself for total randomness.

1. Speaking of mind-dump, I hate public bathrooms. I try to avoid them when possible.

2. Speaking of public bathrooms, I hate it when guys take a dump and then don't wash their hands. So gross and unhygienic!! It's somewhat more tolerable if they don't wash their hands after a piss (as the penis isn't that dirty, as far as body parts go, and urine is sterile), but they should still do it out of courtesy.

3. This Thursday was my last day playing in the hospital lobby. Each Thursday I have to get the piano key from the security guard room place. And each Thursday there's a new guard. This week's guard was rather attractive. I normally have no attraction nor fetish for guys in uniform, but he was cute - short blond hair, blue eyes, about my height (so not that tall), fit, innocent look in his eyes (which seemed a little out-of-place given his security guard uniform). Ah well, whatever.

4. I was in the presence of greatness today. Or rather, in the presence of a great mind. This expert in ear research came to give a talk today. My PI invited me and AG-F to lunch with her, the visiting scientist, my researcher, and the grad student who AG-F works with. The visiting scientist - the ear expert - was so enthusiastic and knew so much about the ear. She had all these interesting and great questions and experiments that would allow us to have pretty clear-cut answers to some of the problems we're encountering. She had this . . . excited aura about her. As if she's really into her research, and she knows a lot. I wonder if one day I'll be able to exude such an aura - I wonder if one day I'll be so good at what I do, so interested in what I do, that it would show.

5. Oh, the guest speaker/visiting scientist/expert was from Germany. I love foreign accents. I particularly like how Germans pronounce the word "proteins." However, when she said "cochlea" it almost sounded like she was coughing up phlegm at first.

6. Speaking of my PI, she's perhaps one of the most motherly, down-to-earth, nicest, knowledgeable, and sweetest short woman I've ever one. Apparently she's also something of a rock star in the endocrinology research world. She went to an endocrinology conference in San Francisco last week, and people doing pituitary research were lining up to talk to her, to show her their data, and to get her opinion. I must say, that's pretty amazing. Perhaps I've been in the presence of epic-ness all this time, and never really noticed it.

7. I love the sound of rustling leaves. There's something very comforting about the sound of the wind gently moving through the leaves and creating a sound. The sound of light rain can sometimes also be nice too.

8. I love to sleep naked when I can (which isn't too often). The only problem is that sometimes when certain parts of me rub against the blanket/sheets, I get excited (if you know what I mean). A quick jacking off immediately prior to getting into bed takes care of that the vast majority of the time.

9. Along those lines, I almost always wake up finding myself idly playing with my morning wood. Even when I'm wearing boxers and pajamas to bed, I'll find one of my hands down there when I wake up. Sometimes the urge to jack off as a result of all this is overwhelming. And sometimes I even have time for it. Though, upon completion, it rarely feels as good as it usually does. Has anyone else experienced this?

10. I randomly came across Wang Leehom's song, 世界的梦想 (shi jie de meng xiang), which means "The World's Dream" or something like that. Here's a YouTube vid of it:

It's one of the songs submitted to the 2008 Beijing Olympics committee to become the theme song or something.

And now, for some pics of Wang Leehom (yeah, I'm occasionally still obsessed with him ::blushes::). I particularly like the last one. :P

The Labeled Masks

I've a feeling that I might potentially be blogging a lot in the next few days. For some reason I get into this "mode" where I just think/muse a lot and have tons of things on my mind. I need to do a mind-dump. Some of it is random, some of it weird, some of it deep, and some of it just stupid.

This has been something I've been thinking a lot lately. I was IMing Mike from Random Thoughts In My Life a week or two ago, or something like that. In short, I had been in a rather depressive mood for weeks, an episode that has been going on and off all of my last semester of undergrad. I confessed to him that I felt very conflicted internally.

You see, when I started this blog I had pretty much settled on that I was bi. But from time to time, I'm just not sure. And I hated myself for this. I don't personally have a problem being bi, or gay, or whatnot. I do, however, have a problem with not knowing with absolute certainty. And there's really no way for me to "find out" during these summer months when school is so devoid of people, and then I'll be home where there's nothing to do. I need to know, and I can't.

Mike brought up an interesting point. Why should I care right now? Why should I confine myself to a label? Why should I call myself bi, or gay, if I'm obviously uncomfortable as such? It's a valid question. Why must we define ourselves? I've read this on almost every blog in my blog roll, the question of identity and labels. Oh how we would all prefer that we wouldn't have to apply labels to ourselves.

Well, I personally think labels can be very important. They are a function of language, of distinguishing things about ourselves and in the world. We have words to describe nearly everything we come across. How could we function as humans in this world if not for some kind of language? Some way of distinguishing things and communicating that to others? Because we're not telepathic or whatnot, language and the labels they create are sort of a necessary evil, if you will.

To that end, each person carries several labels. It's a pretty fundamental concept in psychology and anthropology. The question is, how do these Labeled Masks affect us? They help us orient ourselves in the world, they give us a reference point from which we can relate and interact with others. Lately I've been having a crisis of sorts with my Labeled Masks on a level I never thought I'd ever have to encounter. Let's take an obvious Labeled Mask - I am an American. That is obvious by birth, education, life experience, etc. Another one, for example, is that I am male. That is obvious by anatomy, activities (many/most of them), gender role, blah bah blah.

A more ambiguous one is that I am Chinese. What does this mean? What does "Chinese-ness" mean? I am Chinese by ethnicity, Chinese by language (but not fully?), Chinese by cultural heritage. But I am not Chinese by birth, education (for the most part), and life experience. I've never set foot on mainland China. How Chinese could I be? For example, would - let's say - an African by "race" who was born in China, raised in China, is more fluent in Mandarin than I am, is more literate in Chinese than I am, be considered "more Chinese" than me?

There is also an interesting thing to be said when things cross languages and cultures. For example, I could call myself a 中国人 (zhong guo ren), which means "Chinese person." I could call myself a 海外的中国人 (hai wai de zhong guo ren), which means "foreign-born Chinese person." Or I could call myself a 华人 (hua ren), which is the term Chinese people give themselves. Which Labeled Mask would be most accurate? Which one should be worn more often? In another sense, should I be Chinese American or American Chinese? Is there even a difference or not? This is but one of the many thoughts that plagues me from time to time. I suppose language here is inadequate to explain my frustration on this issue.

Again it brings me to the question, why should it matter? Would "allying" myself with one Labeled Mask or another cause me to behave any differently? Would it cause me to act sympathetic towards others of the same group? Would there be a kind of kindred spirit between others who wear the same Labeled Mask and myself?

Going full circle, to this end I am still not fully sure whether I would feel more comfortable wearing the Labeled Mask of bisexuality or homosexuality. Currently I wear no such mask, at least not publicly. To the best of my knowledge, except those I've explicit told, no one knows anything. And so it defaults to straight even though I don't actively wear this mask. Truth be told I am completely cut off from the bi/gay world. I know abysmally little about it. Because in truth, it's not a world I had concerned myself with for the vast majority of my life, it's not a world I had ever sought. And now, without a base to set off from, I feel like an isolated island.

Of course, the argument goes, why should it matter? Sexuality is almost certainly a spectrum. Why limit yourself to either "extreme" or the center? Why apply a Labeled Mask at all? I would counter - we call north, south, east, and west directions. These are arbitrary applications. When does north become northwest? When does south become southeast? There is nothing on earth that definitively says "This is northeast." However, without these it would be very difficult to find our way around. We could wander lost for a long time without knowing which way to go.

And so, a Labeled Mask for sexuality might do the same. At least, I hope it would achieve to this effect for me. With it, I could begin to progress towards a more open and happy life. But first, I must figure out which way to walk. Until then, I will wear none.

I've done a lot of reading on others' blogs lately. Here are 3 more that I'll add to my blog roll:

Just me
charlie's blog
Tranquil Time

Enjoy! More to be add soon hopefully.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ode to the Cello

I've played the cello for so long I too often forget why I play it, what it was that drew me to this instrument, and that feeling of "oneness" I get. I mean, I've talked about it before in a previous post here, but this time I feel it coming from a different angle.

I remember in 5th grade when everyone had to choose an instrument to play. At the time I had pretty much no idea what I wanted to play, but I knew what I did not want to play. Most of them were brass and wind instruments (sorry brass and wind players). Of those that I did have an interest in were the French horn, the flute, and the bassoon. I couldn't play the French horn. I mean, I physically couldn't get a sound out of the mouthpiece - I lost my breath and almost blacked out from the effort. I couldn't get a controlled sound out of the flute mouthpiece and I felt like I was hyperventilating. And the bassoon . . . we weren't even "allowed" to try out that instrument in 5th grade.

So stringed instruments were the way to go. Now, every Asian and his mom plays the violin. I liked all the sweet solos one could do on a violin but I hated the range of the instrument - it was way too high. After it exceeds a certain pitch, the tones it produces hurt my ears as it tends to create an almost piercing and shrieking sound. Also (and this reason's a little lame), violinists had to stand. I didn't want to play an instrument that would require me to stand. Furthermore I didn't want to jam an instrument against my neck. So the violin was out. The viola was next. I liked its sound MUCH better, but it suffered some of the minor annoyances with the violin (that is, in the way it's played). Later I would find that violists don't get very good parts in pretty much anything. Poor violists.

So then there was the cello and bass. The bass was too large for me, I mean the instrument's about as big as you are. The cello seemed good enough. I really liked the sound range and I loved the fact that I always had to be seated while I played it. So in 5th grade I was the only person in my entire elementary school who chose to play the cello. It made me unique, I stood out, and I was proud of that.

Years later as I moved on to better and better cellos, I would realize the full weight of my decision. In a way, choosing an instrument, sticking with it, and liking it, is almost like finding and realizing a part of your soul. You choose the instrument that best fits you. And in almost every way, the cello fit me. The cello was me.

The cello is satisfied to play the parts in the limelight, the foundation of every ensemble. At the same time, the cello is capable of such wonderful melodies and solos. Of all the stringed instruments it has the greatest range. It can even trespass in the violin's territory (though not their upper territory, as if we cellists would want to). Then there is the deep resonance of the instrument. I know my cello's in tune when I play a note, for example the C on the G string, and the C string vibrates in resonance with it. And it can also vibrate all other C notes, producing a very interesting harmonic effect. I know when my cello's happy when it even vibrates another person's instrument, so that they can feel the vibrations of my cello through their violin or viola. The violin and viola, to the best of my experience, is incapable of this feat.

On certain floors one can feel a cello's resonance through the ground, as the vibrations are grounded through the end pin. It's weird to talk about my instrument in such a way, personifying it, but not really I suppose. It's a reflection of myself in a lot of ways, a mere extension. One channels himself through his instrument, and the instrument reciprocates. I mean, my cello can be moody and uncooperative. In any case, when my cello's happy, I can't help but also be happy. My cello exalts in the resonance that fits into the gaps in the music, and I follow it there alongside. I can feel the vibrations going around and through me, and I remember, "This is why I play."

Also, the very nature of being a cellist is different from many other instruments. Cellists must, on one hand, be the beat keepers in many cases. But not so inflexible that the adhere to the beat rigidly to the detriment of the ensemble. So cellists also have great listening skills and can here where they need to play out more, where they need to back off, where they need to be another instrument's backup, and where they must shine. I've a feeling that violinists tend to be a bit too egotistic as they only care about their own parts, as all other parts are "below them." So they can do whatever they want and almost ignore the rest of the ensemble, but the cellist must support everyone. The violist are sometimes too timid and uncertain, they also tend to resent their parts a lot. A cellist can't afford to be timid or uncertain, as the very fabric of the ensemble often depends on them (unbeknown to the listener).

Interestingly enough, I've come to realize that my cello will very rarely sound the same way twice. Every time you tune a stringed instrument, you're competing against 3 "entities." The first is yourself, your own ears as they listen to the sounds. The second is the wooden body of the instrument, which changes depending on temperature, humidity, and location. Wood will contract or expand accordingly, so that affects sound. And the third are the strings themselves. When all three of these cooperate and are in harmony, then the sound that instrument is capable of producing is rather remarkable.
Now on to an interesting (and somewhat related) story.

My friend, TR-M, who I haven't seen or talked to in almost a year, randomly called me today. It was really good talking to him after such a long time. We have been friends since we were about 7-years-old, so it really was great to hear from him.

He called to tell how he had been listening to Yo-Yo Ma (the famous cellist) and the group Apocalyptica (4-member cello group that plays rock music with cellos). Apparently he's been thinking a lot about the cello lately and wanting to pick it up. Also, his younger brother, JR-M, just finished a movie where I played the cello part for the music score. So TR-M has been listening to that too. So, as logic follows, he thought of me and decided to call me and tell me about this.

He's really considering picking up the cello. He's always thought that stringed instruments were more refined (he played the trumpet in middle and high school) and that he always had an appreciation for the cello. He also said how he came to like the cello more and more as he's matured and as his tastes mature. So he called me, and now he (and his JR-M) might visit me on Sunday! It'd be great to hang out here, as I'm not sure he's ever been to this city as we would normally hang out occasionally when I went home. So this is all very exciting and I really hope he does come out to visit me. He also wanted some pointers on how to play a cello, which I would gladly give him.

Completely unrelated, this would also be a great opportunity for me to come out to the both of them, as I've no idea when I'll be able to see them next. Hopefully I'll be able to do it this time. That is, if they come out here to visit me. I mean, it's only about an hour's drive away.

P.S. Okay, I don't do this often, but I've edited this post like 3 times already as I keep thinking of things I want to put in it. This is a bit weird for me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some Articles

I try to read the news as much as possible. Too bad a lot of things don't really interest me, so I tend to read that which I personally find interesting. Here are three:

1. Essay - Eyes Bloodshot, Doctors Vent Their Discontent
An article I fully sympathize with. I shadowed a doctor last May, and this article brings up all the crap he had to put up with. And what I witnessed was only a fraction of what it must really be like. I mean, the current health care system does rather suck right now. Few understand how much paperwork doctors have, even with a secretary, and how restricted they are when dealing with insurance companies and reimbursements. On the one hand, you want the best medicine for the patient. On the other hand, you want the patient to be able to afford it by making sure it's covered by their insurance. And every insurance is different. So you need like, a chart with all the different medications on it. It's rather insane. Oh yeah, and malpractice insurance.

I hate it when people make the claim that a doctor always makes a good living or always makes money. That's simply not true for many doctors, particularly the primary care ones. And yeah, doctors don't get laid off, but one successful lawsuit could be the end of their entire career. And yeah, they do make a fair amount of money, but they have to pay back at least half a million dollars in debt, plus malpractice and such. As a result of the intense training and extensive time they must go through, doctors better damn earn what they deserve. I mean, how many people spend almost their entire 20s still in school and learning and such? Non-stop, without break.

At times like this, when I read such articles, I wonder why I ever really wanted to become a doctor. It would be easier if I just finished my Masters in public health (MPH) and just stop. But right now, I feel like that won't satisfy me. It doesn't feel like one of my end goals in life. So yeah, maybe I'm still hopelessly optimistic. But maybe, just maybe, there will be some amazing health care reforms by the time I'm a resident. When I'm 27. I'm going to be SO old when I start practicing medicine . . .

2. Why Gays Don't Go Extinct
To be perfectly honest, I take offense to this article a little. It doesn't seem to be very all-encompassing. It's an interesting theory, but it's a population study. They haven't located these genes, they can't test it. It also suggests this as one of many possibilities. I still hold out for sexuality to be an additive genes trait (explained in one of my early posts here).

Still, it's an interesting possibility. Too bad it doesn't apply when one's an only child, or most/all siblings are also male.

3. Spore
I want this game SO bad. You have no idea. I think the biology geek in me is showing. I mean, you get to create a unicellular organism, and have it evolve into a creature. And have that creature eventually evolve into a a society and such, and then launch into space.

So I downloaded the trial version to the Spore Creature Creator. I was hoping for something that'd allow me to do really interesting things. Sad to say, the trial version is pretty limiting. Of course there are tons of options that aren't available. Yet, judging from what I've seen, the full version has its limits too. And here is where my biology really starts to show.

You see, whatever you make has to be a vertebrate. There doesn't seem to be an option for a non-vertebrate creature. And this vertebrate can only have one vertebrate - that is, only one backbone. So I can't make an invertebrate like, for example, a land-based octopus or something. Or if I did, I'd have to "hide" the vertebrae of the creature I create. And I can't make like plant-animal hybrid things. So no photosynthetic creatures, I think. Then again, maybe all this IS an option in the full Spore Creature Creator (that I didn't buy).

Regardless, within the range of possibilities for vertebrates, this game allows for tons of creativity. And it has cute-ish graphics too. I think it's targeted for a younger audience, but it still looks like so much fun! I hope to get it when it comes out in the fall.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Pre-freshmen are Here

Sigh, first I must express my odium for the construction on the dorm across the street from me. They start sometime between 7:00am and 7:30am, and work Monday through Saturday. This means I can almost never get enough hours of sleep as I tend to go to bed after 1:30am at the very earliest. Today it sounded like they were breaking glass (which they probably were, destroying the windows). I got up around 7:30am and put my ear buds in my ears, hoping to dampen the construction noise. Didn't do much. So I just got out of bed around 8:15am. I was not happy.

For a while I walked around campus, rather aimlessly. I then settled and sat under a tree in the very heart of central campus. I sat at one of the benches and read more of Xenocide for an hour or two. And then I saw them. The "pre-freshmen," the summer orientation people.

This reminded me of the other day when I went to eat lunch with AG-F, my friend from the lab. As we walked across campus, we saw several orientation groups. They all had on name tags or the student ID cards about their necks. They were walking across the fountain, as is the tradition here upon becoming a freshman. You're supposed to walk across the fountain in the other direction upon graduation, but I haven't done so yet and I forgot which direction that is now . . .

Anyway, we saw them and we started to reminisce about freshman year, the good and the bad, what we liked and our regrets. In retrospect, there were many things I wish I could've done differently but I'm not sure things would've worked out the way. For one, I would not know many of my current friends had I not taken the classes I did in the order I took them freshman year. That's when I made the vast majority of my friends here - as freshman year forces you do make friends as few people know each other.

My other friend, JW-M, works summer orientation for the poli-sci peer advising, or something like that. So he gives his little talk to all the pre-freshmen. He calls them "freshman embryos" or "freshman larvae" (a reference to Starcraft, lol), but I'll call them pre-freshmen. They're not really freshmen until they've selected their classes and started the school year. Sometimes I think I might've liked to work as a summer orientation peer adviser. Except I wouldn't make things as rosy as they kind of require. Even JW-M had to resist the urge to say that some things just didn't matter, though the speech he had to give said it did. In private I would just be like, "Yeah, that's good" or "Ugh, that sucked. Avoid it."

Back to this morning. I was reading on a bench under the shade of trees and several orientation groups came by. They all seemed to have cameras with them. And I thought, "You're going to be spending at least 3-4 years here, why take pictures now? That's a bit touristy." And they all had their name tags on that just made me laugh inside because it looks so, um, freshman? They all seemed to be lost and only a few of them had maps. They seemed to be on some kind of scavenger hunt to look for things around campus in order to become familiar with the area. There were also some Campus Day tours, and I knew a few of the people giving them too. It's funny listening to the stuff they say: it all sounds so rehearsed, the parents judging the place, the students already knowing whether or not they want to come - so some seemed to have eyes that glazed over with boredom.

In any case, what really hit me was the excitement all the orientation people seemed to have. I miss that excitement - being in a new place, around new people, no one knows you, discovery. If nothing else that's what I missed about freshman year - the fresh start. Making friends from scratch, meeting people who know nothing about you, getting lost and then finding your way. Now there's something I wish I had done differently, but at the time I just didn't know (about myself like I do now). But do I regret? No, not really. If I were to go back in time and let events play out de novo, I'd probably end up pretty close to where I am now.

Still, what I wouldn't give for a taste of that excitement again . . . I don't think grad/med school can provide that on the level that undergrad did.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Getting Better

I think I'm over my depression-like state. It usually only takes me a day or two to "get over it," but lately that's been more and more difficult to do.

I spent about 5 days in near self-exile from everyone I knew. I tried to maintain minimum contact with all my friends - not calling them, not stopping by their apartment, avoiding them if I were across the street or something, etc. The only time I really interacted with my friends was when I had daily trio rehearsals with SR-F, EA-F, and AW-M. I just needed to be alone, and where better than the library? Sad, I know, considering that I've graduated and all. But I must say, the library has fast wireless internet that I've sworn to leech off of as much as possible before I'm cut off from it.

Being alone, while doing nothing but read news and blogs on the internet and a degree of WoW playing almost comparable (almost) to when I used to actually play regularly over 2 years ago, helped. I'm not sure how it helped. I guess it desensitizes you, numbs your mind and lets everything just wash over you, through you, and drain out of you. It's probably not the best nor healthiest way to rid oneself of depression, but it works in the short run. At least long enough to find a better solution.

Anyway, I guess JW-M missed me. He called me while I was out for a run (which after what I ate for dinner tonight, completely negated that and then some) and left a voicemail. It basically said how he wants to work out or hang out or something before I leave, that he hasn't seen or heard from me in the last several days, and that he missed me. He actually said he missed me! Sometimes I wonder if people would, so it was nice to know he does.

I hung out with him a bit tonight. It was fun. There was so much I wanted to tell him and just get all out in the open, but I was among several other friends the whole night, two of which I'm a little uncomfortable being totally honest around. Tomorrow I hope. Oh, my dad called me like 7 times. I returned his call after ignoring it for a while. He was upset, and then I got upset, and it was quite awkward being upset like that in a car with 4 other people. That phone call almost undid everything and made me depressed again. I retired to my apartment instead of going back to JW-M's apartment to hang out. Being alone, for some reason, helps me. That's not a particularly comforting thought . . .

Okay there are so many things (all of them either positive or dorky, lol) I had wanted to blog about in the last 2 days or so. But I'm pretty tired right now so I'll do that later.

But! Before I go to sleep, I managed to read through the following 3 blogs and have added them to my blog roll.

queer asian
Some things about me
Where I Stand

They're all pretty new but good! So go on over and say "Hi!" By the way, I love it when people leave comments but I usually feel too awkward leaving them on others' blogs. I always feel like I should more but for some reason I get a little self-conscious? What's up with that?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Assorted Thoughts

Some of which I've said aloud, others just chuckles in my own head. Just the random-ness that is my mind on a typical day.

1. While watching a fat squirrel (all squirrels are fat on campus as a direct result of students feeding them) run across the street, I exclaimed, "Look! It's an undulating squirrel!" The squirrel's body was bobbing up and down in a wave-like motion. You'll never think of squirrels the same again.

2. A thought to myself as I crossed the street with my cello on my back and an approaching car, "What did the cellist say to himself as he crossed the road? 'Please don't hit me, I'm as slow as a turtle right now.' "

3. While trying to get trio members to take the path with fewest stairs, "Can we take those stairs? They're cello accessible and friendly."

4. Nutella is amazing. Simply amazing. I should get some more . . .

5. I didn't like the bottle of beer I took from the Human Genetics picnic. So I used it to cook some pork chops. In that, it was a success. It gave the meat a slight bite, almost spicy flavor.

6. I always make too much dessert for myself. I tend to recruit others to help me eat it so I don't get fat off it. Also why I seldom make dessert.

7. I cleaned the apartment while all my roommates were gone for the weekend. It felt SO good to walk into an apartment I knew was clean.

8. This one's a bit long. I privately gave a girl in one of the genetics study groups I lead some personal one-on-one help. I hope she did well on her exam today. I saw scars on her left hand. They were too straight to be a scrap or something, so it was pretty clear she was (hopefully not still is) a cutter. Anyway, she had offered to pay me for my time helping her. I refused, but said I'd accept lunch or dinner. We settled for coffee. The coffee wasn't very good, so when I got back to my apartment I added cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutella to it. That didn't work so well. Now I know.

9. It's not very fun measuring the thickness of the stria vascularis. Especially on a TEM (transmission electron microscope) image that's all in black and white. And I still don't know why my PCRs aren't working . . . I also came to the sudden realization today that there's no way I can finish my research project before I leave in 2-3 weeks. Sigh.

10. I finished my arrangement of Tetris for violin, viola, cello, and piano! It has Themes A, B, C, and the Game Over Theme. It sounds great, but it's a pain in the ass to separate the parts from the score. But anyway, such happy music (although I think it's in a minor key).

11. It's amazing how much Chinese I've forgotten so quickly. I need to go back to my old textbooks and refresh myself on those characters. And I had been making good progress during the academic year . . .

12. I've made peace with my solitude and loneliness. For now. Come August/September, new school year, potentially new place, and certainly new people. Let a new beginning come.

13. Since I brought Xenocide to work I keep forgetting to take it home with me. Whenever I want to read it I suddenly remember I left it in lab. Grrr.

14. Everyone falls. The important thing is getting back up.

There've been a lot of new blogs lately (and some older ones I've come across). I've only skimmed and browsed a few, and there are certain several that I want to read fully. So I have my work cut out for me as I read these blogs from beginning to their most recent post before I add them to my blog roll. That said, I also have to reorganize my blog roll as many of the blogs haven't been active in quite some time (blog more bloggers!!). I may need to create a new category or something.

Okay, enough random-ness for tonight. This post served utterly no purpose other than to provide nominal amusement (maybe, hopefully).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dear Blog

I'd like to say two things.

First, in case you haven't noticed, my last several posts have tended to be somewhat depressing. For that I apologize. No one really cares to read "woe is me" material, least of all me. I have, in a sense, violated my original intent for the blog - which is to chronicle my thoughts about personal identity and the world at large. In the process I've found aspects of the personal to express themselves in rant-form, which is far from what I had intended. As such it is not a clear representation of my identity - I am not as emo as some of my posts may make me seem. Far from it in reality, though I do easily make the distinction between how I behave externally and what I think and feel internally. To those who've been reading, I apologize for the tone of my blog as of late.

Second, I would like to address the "state of things" if for no other purpose than to help me see where I currently stand. And where I currently stand is at ground zero. Not even square one. You see, although I feel "back to normal" today and reminiscent of my "normal" self, none of the issues that have made me unhappy for many weeks prior have disappeared or resolved themselves. I shall elucidate why I feel I am still at ground zero.

My research is currently going nowhere. It has stalled yet again. I've only agreed to work another 2-3 more weeks in the lab, which is not enough time (even if I give it 200%) to complete my project. Which is sad, because I've been working on it - and failing - for the last two-and-a-half years. I can only hope I can still do enough work on it so my successor can complete it with ease . . . and so I don't feel like a lab bum.

My future is still uncertain. One path leads down a roundabout way to the other taking 2 extra years. It is a path I'd rather not take if at all possible because 2 years is 2 years. The other path is currently in limbo. As RZ-F said to me, "You're basically in med school hell right now" as I'm just wait-listed, and waiting . . . And no matter how many times people say how great it is that I got into public health, it is NOT what I want to ultimately pursue. Lately, the more it's said, the more I say it, the more I feel the vague aftertaste of failure. But in all honesty, a part of me would welcome public health as it would give me 2 years to do something different. In this respect, I am in internal conflict. I am not looking forward to apartment-hunting here, just in case I don't get into med school somewhere.

Physically I feel like I haven't improved in a long time. Of late I haven't been going to the gym nearly as much. I've probably only went 2-3 times in the last week. I need to get back on it. I need to not only restart my routine, but improve it even more as well. I also need to keep better track of my diet (and actually start eating breakfast again). I want noticeable results before the end of summer, but even at my most hardcore rate it seems unlikely. But, I shan't give up.

Perhaps most important of all, I've had absolutely zero progress relationship-wise. Part of it is the time of year. There aren't many chances to meet new people, let alone start and develop a relationship, over the summer months. There are just too few people around and I don't have quite enough time. This nevertheless upsets me. I've been feeling rather lonesome and at times, I wonder if I'll be alone forever. It's not a comforting thought. It's rather chilling, really. In a way, I hunger for what a relationship has to offer, I hunger for what sex has to offer. I want it, and I want meaning in it. Perhaps I'm asking too much. Oh yeah, I must say how I don't even know how to start a relationship! I'm woefully virginal to even this.

Yet a part of me is scared to pursue a relationship. As I currently stand, being bi, I don't know where to start. What if I date a girl and never get a chance with a guy? What if I date a girl, hate it, and find myself more gay than I realize? What if I date a guy and find it meaningless (or something)? I don't much like "what if" questions, but they fill my head these days. In a way, I find being bi more lonesome and rarer than being gay (and certainly far rarer than being straight). I don't have anyone to talk to about this at length - all my friends who I regularly talk to are straight, all the bloggers I talk to online are gay. I feel like I've "wasted" my undergrad years studying, working towards a future that I couldn't guarantee, and in the process was almost unable to come to terms with myself - unable to experiment and find myself. As the clock ticks I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to "too late."

In summary, progress has been almost non-existent. I want to move forward with everything but I don't know how. I'm tired of waiting for things to happen, I'm tired of trying to make some things happen, why don't they just happen already? I think I need help . . . So, dear blog, give me some advice, some illumination.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why Am I So Bad at This?

It's been a little while since I last blogged. I'm still feeling a bit crappy, emotionally. But I'm a little better. I went home over the weekend. My grandparents were visiting for a few weeks and staying over, so I saw them and that was very good for me. Seeing them reminded me of what kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of mental state I want to attain. I know they've been through a lot in their lives, but they refuse to show it. All one sees is their sunny disposition, even when they're at their "meanest" or "strictest." There's a warmth to their smiles, to their small laughs, to their voices. It's good to be reminded of how happiness can be embodied.

Yet, I'm still feeling a bit down. Again, better compared to last week. I want/need to get over this. Today I talked to JW-M for a while as we walked around campus. We talked about all sorts of things (except the things that were bugging me the most) and it was great. We hadn't really talked liked that in quite some time and I really needed it. I don't know if he knew how much I just needed to talk to someone for an extended period of time, not necessarily about anything, maybe just to know someone is listening to me and giving me feedback.

I wanted to ask him the whole time whether or not he had ever "suspected" me of being anything but straight before I told him I was (am) bi. And maybe use that as a segue my "bi issues" as it were. But I never did. The words sat there at the back of my mouth, at the tip of my mind. I wanted to say them but couldn't form the sounds in my mouth.

Why am I so bad at this? It's not like I'm coming out to him again. He already knows and is already okay with it. Might this mean I'm still, even after all this time, not fully comfortable talking about it? Or with myself? What kind of strange weakness is this, that I can't even express that which I most desire to know or express that which most bothers me? And I do, on top of that, have this almost irrational fear of being alone for the rest of my life.

I wish I knew. I wish I had some semblance of confidence in myself. I wish I had some self-image/self-esteem. Perhaps I'm not giving myself enough credit; I never do. Ordinarily I throw myself into whatever it is I'm working on at the moment - whether it's homework, a project, studying for an exam, etc. But now that I've graduated, I've nothing to immediately work towards. I have no goal at the end of some road that blots out all other thoughts from my mind as I focus on it. I have too much time for reflection, for thought, for many things . . .

Maybe, although I know it's almost a cop out and somewhat lame, I'll email JW-M my question(s) and issues - just lay it all out. At least once it's sent, I can't take back my word. And at least then it's already out.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I Don't Know

But this much I do know . . .

My efforts in volunteering at the hospital by playing trio music in their lobby is starting to pay off. It sure took me a long time to set up and get going, and I (we) had wanted to give up more than once before it even started. But we're all glad we're doing it now. Last week and this week, for just a few minutes during the hour we play, a few people - patients and/or their families - actually sit down and listen to us. One of the people who work there is even telling her friends that "there's this trio that plays in the lobby." I'm so glad when someone says something like that, as it means what we're doing is having a positive impact and people appreciate that. However, I do feel self-conscious and a little embarrassed that we're only amateur musicians - we make several random mistakes each week. Even if no one else but us hears the mistakes, the fact that we can makes me a little embarrassed. I want nothing less of our best each time, but stage-fright sets in whenever people actually pay attention.

I also know that I'm quite annoyed and even a little pissed at a few of my friends. They spent a week convincing me to get back into WoW. By the time I started up again, they were over 20 levels higher than me. By the time I catch up to the point where I could actually maybe do something with them, they're no longer interested in playing anymore. Then why did I even bother! The whole point was so I could play with them, together. Not with strangers (though there are many nice and competent players) and not by myself soloing things. Done that, been there. No, I wanted to specifically play with them as I've always wanted to, but last time they quit before I even really got WoW, and now they're doing it all over again. I should just delete WoW from my computer, as I'm clearly not having as much fun as I should. But I did pay for a 1-month subscription, $15, and that expires 6-27-08. So I now feel almost obligated to play till then. Sigh.
What I don't know . . .

Is why I've been feeling so crappy lately. And by lately I mean the last several weeks, and prior to that the last few months. I'm beginning to think that 2-3 weeks of not feeling crappy was just an illusion, a fluke. I can't even pin an emotion on this - loneliness, sadness, frustration, anger, exhaustion? How about all the above. Let's see if I can think this through.

A few times a week I wake up wanting to cry but being unable to, as if I forgot how. There doesn't seem to be a reason behind this. I just wake up and feel like the day's going to suck. A week or two back, the "death" thoughts came back. Thankfully they came and went quickly this time. I must make a clear distinction that I only think about what it's like to be dead, not what it's like to die or how to kill myself. But still, they're by no means comfortable thoughts.

I know I'm sexually frustrated and lonely. Here I am, 22, and have never fallen in love, never kissed, a virgin in practically every sense. I sometimes wonder what it's like to even just touch someone without feeling embarrassed, without feeling like I've invaded their personal space or violated some unwritten rule. Even hugs feel awkward for me. The fact that I don't seem to be losing weight (or gaining for that matter, thankfully) doesn't help. It seems no matter what I eat, no matter how much I exercise, I can't seem to lose any more weight than what I'm currently at. Generally, I run a mile on the track, lift some weights, then run 2.5-3 miles on the Elliptical machine. And I do this at least every other day. I know I have a rather low self-image, and it's almost always been like that. And I hate that feeling of not being comfortable in my own skin, as if my body's just some awkward clumsy thing I just happen to be stuck in.

Although I have friends who know I'm bi, I've never since talked to them about it. What do they know? What do I know for that matter? What can we talk about? What can we discuss? Such matters fall so far outside the normal realm of stuff we talk about that this invites nothing but awkward silences. And I want someone to talk to, someone to relate to, someone to help me sort out this confusion. All this leads me to feel dissociated and even disconnected from my friends. I used to love my privacy and solitude, but these days I almost can't stand to be alone. But when I'm with friends, I feel silent as if I've nothing to contribute, as if I'm just a body sucking up oxygen in the room. I feel like I have nothing to say, though there's lots I want to say but I don't know or think I can. I feel distant and I hate it.

I know I'm exhausted as I don't get much sleep. They're doing construction on the dorm across the street from me, and they start early in the morning with plenty of loud noises. As I tend to go to sleep way too late, they wake me up relatively way too early. I've been feeling myself falling asleep at random throughout the day. Not good. This in itself almost makes me want to cry.

And of course there's the waiting, the everlasting waiting to hear back from med schools. I try not to think about it, but it's ever gnawing at me in the back of my brain. There's nothing I can do, I'm at the complete mercy of "the system" and I hate it. I feel like maybe I didn't give it my all, or maybe I'm not good enough, not worthy, what-have-you.

All of this, all of it, is affecting me at my jobs and I can feel it. I feel tired and unmotivated at research. Some days I'm really productive, others (like today) I literally got nothing done despite being there for 3 hours. At my group tutoring thing, I feel disorganized, unfocused, and unable to direct or answer questions. And if they start to feel it, they'll stop coming, which makes it harder for me and those who do stay. I don't even really try to hide these problems but no one's mentioned anything. No one - not one of my friend's - has asked me if I was okay, or if anything's wrong, or pried into it. Am I that good at instinctively hiding this? Is the Mask of Stoicism that foolproof?

I sit here every day and night trying to make the next day better, but it never seems to be. I seem to be waiting for something, but since I graduated, I feel like what I'm waiting for is a future that's foggy at best. Sometimes it's almost graspable, other times it's like a mirage and seems to fade when I get closer. I don't expect anyone to read this, especially this far. This is more for me to have it out, to have it confessed, so it doesn't fester inside me. Hopefully, this has helped me. I'll find out when I wake up in the morning.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Apparently . . .

. . . I need to be saved.

After getting coffee with AG-F after work yesterday, we walked across the campus to a Borders where she had a book on hold. We managed to walk past an evangelist without attracting his attention. But we had to walk back in the same direction to get to where we each needed to go. On the way back, he saw us.

He came up to me and handed me a leaflet with "Christ is Victor" on it. Nevermind that AG-F was walking closer to him. Nevermind that he completely ignored her, bypassing her arm and body to give it to me specifically. After we walked past hearing distance, we both thought "What was that?!" We had expected him to give a leaflet to both her and me, but no, only I had to have one. Our following conversation was something as followed:

Me: "What was that? Did that just happened?"

AG-F: "I don't know. Apparently you need to be saved. Just you, not me."

Me: "That's so weird. Maybe you just look like a generic WASP to him? Hmm, I already have a Bible . . ." (AG-F's Catholic, I think . . . and the Bible was for class)

AG-F: "Clearly they don't have enough of 'you.' They've already enough of 'me,' maybe they already have a whole collection of 'me.' But aren't there lots of Asian Christians?"

Me: "Yeah, but they're all Korean . . ." (Kind of somewhat true)

So yeah, that was strange. I gave her the leaflet so it could fulfill its fate (aka, get recycled). She was headed to the library anyway. On my way back to my apartment, I half-heartedly decided that I want to collect some major religious texts. I already have a Bible (and a Torah in retrospect as that's basically the Old Testament, though I'm sure many would disagree with me). I have excerpts of the Analects of Confucius, excerpts of the I Ching, and the Tao Te Ching. All I need now are the Quran, Buddhist scriptures, and Hindu scriptures to have collected the world's most "popular" religions.
. . . Asian guys have small penises that drag the average down.

SC-F and RS-M were talking about their mutual friend, Tyler, who apparently has a huge penis. And she was talking about penis sizes and such. At one point, she said something to the effect of, "The overall average seems small to me. (Average = about 6 inches) You know why? It's cuz of all the Asians, they're dragging the average down."

She went on about this for a little bit, about how Asians have smaller penises on average and that it was a fact. And they drag down the average significantly, otherwise it might be an inch or so higher. I don't know if she noticed that I was sitting behind her, because suddenly she turned to me and was like, "No offense."

But how could I not take offense? Granted, I'm not above average but I'm well within the average range (of what, 5 to 6.5 inches?). The strange thing is that it didn't bother me at the time. But when I woke up the next morning, I was so indignant. Sure, I can accept that Asians tend to be on the small side of average, just like Asians tend to be shorter and Asian women tend to have smaller breasts. I can accept that the exceptionally large Asian penises are rare. But to say that "we're" so short that we drag the average down for everyone else, that's just wrong.

I don't know why I felt so indignant, I just did. I almost wished I could go back in time and say to her, "You know what? Asian women have smaller breasts and vaginas." Which isn't exactly false, but again, not lying outside one standard deviation of the normal distribution centered around "average."

Sigh, all the things I wish I had said or should've/could've said.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wir Betreten Feuertrunken

So I'm playing WoW again. I have a level 20 Blood elf female paladin. It took me a few days (like 4-5). I must admit, there are parts of the game I still remember liking, and other parts that I really really don't care for (I do NOT look forward to walking into contested territory where a high-level person of the opposite faction can one-shot me). This time around, the whole purpose for me is to get to a high enough level (just a few more) so that I can do group dungeon quests with some of my friends who started about 2 weeks before me. I miss my druid - that was my one true class character in this game. Oh well, the paladin's okay . . .

Anyway, the true purpose of this post. I went to see an orchestra concert today with JW-M and SR-F. It was good, they played Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It's so famous and amazing! For many years it defined the symphony, it was the pinnacle of symphonic music - and Beethoven had already been deaf for 6 years before he composed his 9th (and last) symphony!! Can someone be that amazing?!

Beethoven's 9th Symphony is pretty recognizable and well-known even if one never listens to classical music. The most identifiable part is the 4th movement, where the words of the title fits in; they translate from German to "We approach fire-drunk." It's a couple lines into the "Ode to Joy." It's such an epic line. While the chorus and the soloists were singing I kept remembering back to freshman year when my roommate, JW-M, used to sing the first few lines to me in the middle of the night. It was silly, but the words are still so epic. Look them up! Anyway, I had never heard the full original version of Beethoven's 9th Symphony until he played it for me freshman year. And at first I found the singing weird, but it grows on you because it's kind of funny-sounding.

Sitting in front of me in Orchestra Hall was a little kid. I kind of felt bad for him, as the whole symphony's over an hour long. A kid his age does NOT have the attention span to stay awake. I barely had the attention span to stay fully awake the whole piece, and I know and love that symphony!! As I saw him curl into sleep in his chair, I suddenly remembered something random. When my brothers and I were little, we used to have "stick figure wars." Each of us would choose a color and connect 3 sheets of paper lengthwise. Each person took a sheet of paper as their original territory and base. There were (loose) rules to the game. But basically, your stick figures, with their powers and technologies, had to overpower the other two and take over all 3 sheets of paper. There were limits to each person's armies - i.e. no one can have a laser that pierces everything nor can anyone have an energy shield that blocks everything. The "wars" always got ridiculous and someone would get pissed and would have to convince the other 2 of us that he won (which the winner never did).

That was about it. Sum of my day. Also had Chinese take-out food-of-sorts. It was okay.