Thursday, June 30, 2011

Random Musings

I'm currently sitting at Yoshida's desk, looking at Yoshida's soft chair and Yoshida's whiteboard.  I'm listening to the sounds of kids discussing crypsis and aposemitism.  I'm marveling that June is already over.

I think Yoshida teaches trigonometry.  I think he might be Japanese.

I think the kids are actually less intimidating than I originally thought.  I think they actually enjoy biology.

One day when I have my own tree garden, I'm going to have at least a Magnolia, a Japanese cherry, and a weeping willow.

The end.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alternate Reality

On Kato:
Kyuhyun: 我罵你。(Translation: I'm scolding you) My thoughts exactly.

On construction outside our apartment:
Jason: I honestly want to learn how to do their work and help them.  Surely these guys need some help meeting their deadline. I was just thinking of offering to make them lemonade.

On the Bundesliga:
Leander Schaerlaeckens: "While the English Premier League is seen as the gold standard, a scenario is unfolding in which the Bundesliga could surpass the EPL to become the world's most popular and successful soccer league. If that sounds like a stretch, consider that the Bundesliga is already the best-attended league and arguably the most exciting one, too.  


German soccer is leading the way on another front as well. Most European soccer clubs are struggling with massive debt. The 20 English Premier League clubs have a combined debt that has spiraled to $4.45 billion. In La Liga, last year's 20 teams rang up $4.65 billion in debt. Contrast that with Germany, where the country's 36 pro teams are (wait for it) actually making money." The US could stand to take some lessons from your business plan.  


On China: 
DuChun: High speed trains have officially started running from Beijing to Shanghai, moving China into an unprecedented era of technology. This may make me sound like a nerd but I am really excited/jealous.  


On NASA: 
Todd Halvorson:  "Since Columbia and seven astronauts were lost during atmospheric re-entry in 2003, when heat shield damage went undetected, NASA always has had a second shuttle ready for a rescue mission. But this time, there's no backup. Atlantis is outfitted with NASA's last shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters.
So NASA developed an alternate plan: The crew would stay on the station and make staggered returns on Russian Soyuz spacecraft." Who would ever have thought back in the day of the Space Race that this would be the reality of the Russian/US space programs?  It is interesting to be getting a degree in a field that is dying.


On Research:
If I had not missed my deadline, I would be in Hawaii right now.  Ah, Hawaii.  I can imagine the trip would include a lot of engineering and a lot of sitting by myself and just looking at the ocean.  (Why is it that when you're old, all you want to do is sit and stare at the scenery?)

Monday, June 27, 2011

With a Heart for Any Fate

Someone once told me that my blog always consists of me thinking about things rather than doing things.  So today, I will attempt to ameliorate that by giving you a glimpse at my weekend.

On Friday:
I picked up my car from the mechanics.
I bought groceries for dinner and made: eggplant, pork, spinach, and rice. 
The weather was so nice, Ashley and I took our coffee table outside onto our porch and pulled out some cushions and ate Japanese style.
I watched part of Bend It Like Beckham while looking up important things on Wikipedia such as: David Beckham, Women's Soccer Association, Yuki Abe, Urawa Reds, and MLS.
Lindsey came over and we went on a late night run where we talked about men who confuse us, our plans for the next day.  Lindsey pushed me into a bush and laughed about it while I sputtered in shock. 

On Saturday:
I woke up at 4 am, showered and got ready to go the temple.
At 5:20, we left for the temple. 
At 6:30, my car started exhibiting the exact same problems it had before I took it to the mechanic's.  I proceeded to get frustrated at my car in Chinese.  Lindsey tried to help by muttering in French.  Our friend who was asleep in the back seat didn't notice a thing.
At 7:30 we arrived at the temple and had a nice time there.
At 11 we left DC to go to Fredericksburg.  Three hours later, we finally made it to Fredericksburg.  I was tempted to ask everyone on the road where they were going since we were apparently all going the same direction. 
In Fredericksburg, I decided that Kato was not going to make it to Cville so we called around to find a mechanic, went to the one we were directed to only to find it was closed, as were most of the mechanics in Fredericksburg.  We stopped by a Jiffy Lube to ask for help and met some very nice individuals who sympathized with our situation and ran a free diagnostic on my car. 
We decided to try to go back to Charlottesville anyway.
At 6:00 we made it back to Cville, dropped the car back off at the mechanic's.
Walked in on the last part of a wedding reception and talked with some friends while assisting with minimal cleanup. 
Played piano for a friend's baptism.
Made the fastest shopping trip ever at the Oriental Market buying bulgogi sauce, 20 lb rice, strawberry mochi, and gochujang.
Went normal shopping at Kroger.
Realized I bought the wrong thing and went back to the grocery store.
Ashley and I convinced Jason to watch The Road Home with us.  We laughed at the fun parts and despite our teasing, I still managed to cry at the end. 

On Sunday:
I got up to write a talk. 
Couldn't write or even think of anything important about my life more recent than 7 years ago.
Sliced up the meat for bulgogi and made an ice cream cake.
Got ready and attended church were I: conducted an acapella number for church meeting, gave a talk on love, cried for 40 minutes in an empty classroom after it was done, went to the last meeting where I discovered that people actually got something out of my horrible rambling.
Went home and made dinner for Ashley's birthday dinner: bulgogi, eggplant, napa cabbage, miso soup, and rice.
Ate dinner with friends I have not spent time with in a LONG while.  We shared stories and laughed a lot.
Ate the ice cream cake.
Did the dishes.
Went on a walk.
Came back and invited more people over to help us finish the ice cream cake.
Did more dishes.
Watched a tribute clip for a friend.
Sent a text message to our friend to let him know we were thinking about him.
Returned home and worked on some Chinese translation. 

Let us be up and doing with a heart for any fate.
Check and check. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ISO

A good exploratory text of ancient civilization - particularly revisiting the roots and origins of Eastern hemisphere cultures.

My ignorance has become so glaringly obvious, it's about time I did something about it.

Please, please leave me ideas, suggestions below!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Other Side of Failure

Over 5 weeks ago, I cheered on Hasebe and his team while they fought themselves out of relegation zone.  (For those still unfamiliar with relegation, it would be like moving from the Major Leagues to the Minor Leagues - a huge setback for the team collectively and individually.)  With their 3-1 win over 1899 Hoffenheim, they were safe.  It was a relief and the whole of Wolfsburg celebrated.  They even likened the feeling to that of winning the League Championship (Deustcher Meister) which went this year to Kagawa's (長谷部さんの後輩) BVB.
Source: Vfl Wolfsburg Webseite
Source: Vfl Wolfsburg Webseite
The dust settled.  The elation from that victory wore off.  Sadly, I realized that, when all was said and done, they were still losers - just not the biggest ones.

The fight for next season and its success was just beginning.

For the past 11 weeks, I have been fighting my own relegation battle. Already having to pull out of one conference due to lack of data and results, I was determined not to ruin my career by now pulling out of the second one.  After I missed my first self-imposed deadline, 5 weeks before the real deadline, I started putting in longer and longer days.  I pulled back from other activities in my life...until my life was veritably all tied up in research until I couldn't think anymore and so went home to sleep.

I just knew the sacrifices I was making would be worth it when I made my deadline.  I envisioned that after I avoided relegation, I would rejoice, rest, and then get back into the fight - knowing that even though the fight to graduation was still ahead of me, that I could do it.  (Then, even if I was still not quite a winner, at least I wasn't the biggest loser.)

The deadline was last night at 11:59 pm EDT.

Result?  I missed it.  I failed.  I'm a relegated graduate student.

After all my work, after all my effort.  All those long days and nights in the lab, the tears I've shed, the back pains and neck pains I've developed and the sleeplessness that's accompanied it all amount to?  Well, not success.  Not even one glimmer of it.  By the time I went home last night, not even my data was compiling correctly and our analysis program was fitting a curve with a straight line.  (Don't think that sounds bad?  Try driving a winding country road without turning the wheel and tell me how far you get.)

Hasebe-san told the reporters in Japan that his relegation battle was one of the hardest trials of his career but that he became a better person for it.  (This from the man who has J-League, Asian Champions League, Bundesliga, and Asian Cup champion titles under his belt) I would echo that sentiment.

In those 11 weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the quiet kindnesses of so many around me -  from people who taught me to cut glass, helped me get my nitrogen, took time to optimize my code to those who gave me support and pep talks as well as took walks with me and patiently listened to me babble on about nonsense simply because I needed to talk to someone after long hours in the lab by myself.  I cannot express my gratitude enough.  And one day, I hope to put that into an acknowledgments section of a paper, a dissertation, anything really but until then, this blog will have to suffice:

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.  ありがとうございます、非常感謝, vielen dank.

I sacrificed a lot for this failure.  But I can honestly say I don't regret it.  I have a lot of putting my life back together after this period.  But it's nice to decide that it's worth putting back together.  The road ahead of me is long and hard and more than ever, I don't know the end result.  But if the last 11 weeks is any indication, I won't go down without a fight.  And even if a failure, I can't say that it's all a failure.  Because I'm still moving; life keeps going; and you just never know how things will ultimately end up.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Girl who Cried 'Wolf'

Dear Self,

Do you remember that time when you spent all your time in the lab to meet a deadline?  And how because of that, you avoided doing anything extraneous?  And how no one really thought that life was different for you? And they asked to you to concern yourself with normal stuff?  Rather than the thing that literally occupies every waking thought?  And how you might be pulling your first all-nighter in graduate school?

When you get past this impending terrifying deadline, no matter what the outcome, make sure you stop telling everyone that you're busy...because apparently they've already stopped believing you.

Love,
Me

Since we're on the subject of wolves, here is my favorite one:
Source: Vfl Wolfsburg Fussball Seite
Dear Self,

Remember when your other favorite wolf (Hasebe  the car) broke down on your way to pick up some terribly-bad-for-you-dinner so you could have that all-nighter? So instead, you went home and got a few hours of sleep?  Sometimes, that dear little Kato of yours has more sense than you give him credit for. 

Love,
Me

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Human Experience

Yesterday, in English class, I had the opportunity to sit and listen to one of my students give me her thoughts and feelings about people and life:

Time goes too quickly.

Everyone is simply doing what they can in the best way they can.

When it comes down to it, what we wish most for our families is their well-being and their happiness.

You know what? I couldn't agree more.

Her life is ordinary - nothing special.  She got married to a good man in China and has followed him wherever his work has taken him.  She is raising their daughter.  And she only rarely gets a chance to go back and visit family.

Now she wants to write a book about her life and her life's experiences.  I hope she does write it because I want to read it...in Chinese or English.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once explained why she decided to write a book about her courtship, first year of marriage and then the kidnapping and murder of her first son (called Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead - excellent read)  I have to summarize her words because I don't have a copy of her book in front of me nor do I readily know where to get one.  But essentially, she said that she was not claiming that her life was unique; she was not saying that no one else had suffered anything like the tragedy she had.  However, she wrote because she wanted to join her experiences with that of others - to claim that like others she had hard times.  We all suffer and we all rejoice.  And it is that, that makes us more than anything else, human and a part of the large family of the human race.



On a side note,  research has been taking over my life lately.  It's teaching me a lot of things - both about my field and my work and mostly about myself.  I want to learn how to love.  I want to have a family.  I want to finish my PhD.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Language Woes

There is a car on grounds that I often see that has a license plate the reads, in part "1MO..." Without fail, every time, I read it as "Emo..."  and try to figure out what type of owner would put a musical genre on their car before remembering that "1" in America is pronounced as "one" and not "Eee."

Last week, I went to a Mexican restaurant - probably the best, most authentic food I've had in Charlottesville.  The lady spoke minimal English and I spoke minimal Spanish.  ("I only know like 10 words and 7 of them are numbers.")  As I tried to tell the lady that out of the 6 tamales were ordered, four would go on one plate and 2 would go on another, I paused as I said "cuatro tamales y dos tamales."  It felt odd to not put a number modifier between the number and the object, as you would in Asian languages.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I were talking about our views on some interesting topic.  Excitedly, I spoke up.  "Oh, I agrees completely."  And then clapped my hand over my mouth in shock.  Did I really just make a mistake on subject/verb agreement?

Did you know that you can give the past tense of Thank You in Japanese?  ありがとうございました Now I have absolutely no idea how to say even the most basic of phrases.  Do I thank you in past tense because you already helped me or in present tense because I'm currently grateful?

When I was at BYU, my Calculus credits fulfilled the higher languages requirement.  Maybe I should just stick with math. It makes sense the world over.  That is, when I understand it.  :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sleep Deprived

Dear Subconscious,

What happened last night?  I needed a good solid night's sleep, one that preferably would give me the energy and strength to go face my lab again.

Instead, who should appear but Steve Young, ready and eager to give tips to Makoto Hasebe about life after retiring from professional sports.  I spent the entire night (1) wondering why they were in my dreams (2) why they were using my dreams to discuss such a personally non-important issue and (3) following those two around in hopes of asking them why they were using my dreams to talk about such a topic.  But did I ever get to ask?  NO!  Because they flatly ignored my existence, as though I was invisible.  I played a minor, non-important character in my own dream!  

I woke up an hour before my alarm went off, not because I was refreshed and ready to face the world again, but because I was tired of trailing after them.   

Now I have to go and tackle research?

"You done me wrong", subconscious.  And I don't even have the time to give you a chance to redeem yourself.

Love,
Me

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making History

"One of the hardest, and I think the most important, realities of history to convey to students or readers of books or viewers of television documentaries is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. Any great past event could have gone off in any number of different directions for any number of different reasons. We should understand that history was never on a track. It was never preordained that it would turn out as it did.

Very often we are taught history as if it were predetermined, and if that way of teaching begins early enough and is sustained through our education, we begin to think that it had to have happened as it did. We think that there had to have been a Revolutionary War, that there had to have been a Declaration of Independence, that there had to have been a Constitution, but never was that so. In history, chance plays a part again and again. Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do.

Furthermore, nobody ever lived in the past. Jefferson, Adams, George Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, “Isn’t this fascinating living in the past? Aren’t we picturesque in our funny clothes?” They were living in the present, just as we do. The great difference is that it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out, they didn’t either."


--- David McCullough, "The Glorious Cause of America," given at Brigham Young University, Sep 27, 2005. 
Source: Wikipedia image

"Honestly, I do not know the secret to winning - Do everything that you can and Lady Luck will smile upon you."

--- Makoto Hasebe, Goethe, 2011.
Source: VfL Wolfsburg-Fussball Offizielle Seite

"Your future is as bright as your faith."

--- Thomas S. Monson, "Be of Good Cheer", Ensign, May 2009.
Taken at sunrise, Alishan, Taiwan, June 2009

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu...

When I left Germany, bidding surprisingly emotional goodbyes to people that I had only known for a day, one of the more fatherly figures gave me a hug and then looked into my eyes and said, "Alles Gute."  I smiled back and repeated back, "Alles Gute."  Without even using a dictionary, I understood what he meant.  It was as though he was saying, "All is well."  But not quite just that, the hope that all would be well in my future also.  It was significant to me to receive such a comment from this man.  (For those interested, he is also the reason that in the BVB/Schalke 04 rivalry, Schalke 04 has my heart.)  So much expressed in so few words, we were friends, not merely strangers, truly wishing and hoping for bright futures for each other.

This summer is a summer of goodbyes, to friends who are leaving Charlottesville and moving on to different stages of life.  It's hard to find just the words to express all my hopes for them in their futures, all my joy in watching them progress but also my sorrow in bidding them farewell, at least for now. 

"Alles Gute, Alles Gute"

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Adversity

While walking into work today, I noticed this:


Sorry, I got a little overzealous with the pictures.  A random beautiful purple flower growing right up next to some random trailer that has been sitting in the same spot since the day I started here.

It just goes to show you; it doesn't take a lot of soil or water to grow into something beautiful - you just need enough.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Alien Research

Dear Self,

Count your blessings that you're not married....

Because then you'd want to have kids....

And due to the massive amounts of iodine that you deal with on a daily basis,

I'm pretty sure your kids would end up purple and they'd fluoresce orange under green laser light....

Love,
Me
When I searched for "purple alien kids"
this actually showed up.  Made in Japan.  $2 USD

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blast From the Past

Today, Lindsey and I went to high school.

When we walked in the doors, a few minutes after the bell for the first class had rung, an administrator sitting near the entrance started to get our attention with a, "You need..." but she trailed off as soon as I looked at her and threw herself back into reading her paper.  The two students who followed only a few seconds later though got barked at to sign in and explain their tardiness.

During second period, when the intercom announced the pledge of allegiance, I clapped my hand over my heart, ready to stand but not remembering if that was proper protocol so instead, I just nudged Lindsey to recite the pledge with me.  It took about 2/3 of the pledge before she realized why I kept nudging her.  And then I think we were laughing about our mistake during the moment of silence (Oops!)

During the passing period, suddenly students swarmed the office where we were poring through old yearbooks, students were now waiting for a talk with the principal.  One by one the principal called them all in.  At one point, he was walking past but slowed as he got to me, perhaps wondering if he had missed someone.  Old habits die hard - I slapped the book I was reading shut and sat up at attention.  That action alone set him at ease.  He waved his hand as though to say, "It's ok, don't mind me," and kept walking.

At one point, a parent came in to the front office and the student assistant there tried to make small talk with the little girl in her arms, "Do you like Justin Bieber? I do too."

I haven't attended high school now for a while.  I mean, I do have a college degree after all.  So, why did I still expect the adults to wonder why I was out of class?  Or for them to look at me and think, "Kids these days just aren't what they used to be"?
Special bonus: While looking through high school yearbooks from the late 80's I am almost pretty sure that the Korean pop band Shinee all attended high school then, looking much the same as they do in the picture above.  They were heavily involved in student government, tennis, French club and, surprisingly enough, basketball.  (Of course, not really, since the oldest member of Shinee is just 21)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lab Views

My lab is full of some hilarious characters.  Here is a short sample of life on a daily basis:

Today while I was waiting for my lunch to heat up in the microwave (3 minutes and 30 seconds) I walked into the Conference room to find the three professors in the lab discussing whether their ideal job for the TSA in airports would be sorting trash or patting down people.  They asked my opinion on their way back to work.

But then one of them stopped and told me that he likes to take time every morning and do pull-ups on the wheel track up above in one of the rooms and that he wanted me to know about it in case I ever wanted to do the same thing.  I had no idea what he was talking about so I nodded dubiously, "Are you trying to say I need to work on my muscle toning?" He laughed.

While eating my lunch on my lab computer, I get a knock on my door and three people enter my lab, demanding to see the heated pressure regulators that a lab mate had borrowed months before.  I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and so while I search around, racking my brain for any clue about (1) what such a thing could look like and (2) where I could have possibly put it, the three of them playfully teased me.  "Aha!  She looks so guilty.  She knows exactly where she hid it."  I smiled and invited them in to come see for themselves while I continued to run through my memory.  As they looked over my lab, they paused at the table displaying our various models, "Wow, those all just look like a bunch of UFOs.  Interesting..."
Despite their insinuations, I laughed.  

 And that was just one half hour of my day today.  These are the same guys who wanted to know if our lab could run the mile relay faster than one of our labmates could by himself.  (That would require 30 second 200s from each of us - pretty hard to do)  (Yes, that's right. One of us can run a 4 minute mile.  And that person is NOT me)  Hilarious little tidbits of conversation all day long.

Sometimes, that's all it takes to keep going.
Some Asian popstars <cough, Ashin> wear
masks to be artistic.  Some of us wear them
so we don't inhale massive amounts of chemicals
we aren't supposed to.  
Oh, iodine, how I love you.  And what you do
to my wind tunnel.