Be yourself

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I wish I didn’t have to title my entries. I’ll figure out how to switch
this into a date format, eventually. It shouldn’t take me too long if I
look at the HTML script.

The BMES conference yesterday, day three of four, was quite interesting and
I got to listen to some stimulating talks. My PI talked today, as well
as Sangeeta Bhatia at MIT/HST, Elliot McVeigh from NIH, and Jay
Humphrey at Texas A&M. Their brief lectures were collaged into a
“Whitaker Symposium” celebrating the careers of said recipients of
Whitaker funding, and were about adaptation and learning, microscale
tissue engineering, real-time MRI for cardio applications, and modeling
of cerebral aneurysms, respectively. Biomedical engineering is a
tremendously broad field (yes, a realization of the obvious, but today
it was a visceral realization). I was inspired, but also began
questioning whether I was really in the right lab, as my interests do
rather seem to be more in the tissue/cell engineering realm than my
current project in motor control. Perhaps it’s largely due to my
familiarity with molecular and cellular biology, but the application of
nano and micro techniques to the study of the basic science as well as
engineering-type manipulation of cells was exciting, and simply cool.

I ran into Prof. Stanley at the symposium – it was very good to see
him. Of the little nuggets of advice he hurridly delivered as we walked
out, “you’ve got to find the middle ground between micro-biology and
overly large systems level” was the nicest (if not most helpful, since
I’ve already realized that this is the huge dilemma I’ve got to
address), while “you have to finish classes, write your thesis and move
to the next level, get to the PhD soon” delivered with a slightly
impatient air, the least so. Slowly but surely, though, I’m nearing
100% conviction that what I’m doing now, in terms of both program and
lab, is the right thing. I will graduate with a skill set of both
breadth and depth, more credentials, more lab experience, and most
importantly, a good grasp of what sort of research I would gladly
devote my life to. Hmm.. remembering Dr. Bhatia’s dynamic talk, I
should revise my recent line of thought that a medical background is
most useful for systems-level research, as opposed to research on the
micro scale.

          ‘Do you love your country? Then you, before others, should cultivate a strong personality.
          The reason there are no great individuals among us is simply because
there is no one who strives with determination to become a great
individual.
          Why is it that the
person who sighs that there are no giants neglects to study to become
one himself?’

A quote by Ahn Chang-ho, Korean independence activist. I must regain my
world view, my resistance to conformity, and proactive lifestyle. This
largely amounts to reconstructing a pre-college version of myself. So,
I’ll start again. Consider this the third of my paltry “trials and
tribulations” which, failing to break me, will leave me stronger.

Lastly, a short poem that speaks volumes to me.
         

He is quick, thinking in clear images;

I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;

I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.


Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;


Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.


Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;


Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.


When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;


When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.


He continues quick and dull in his clear images;


I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.


He in a new confusion of his understanding;


I in a new understanding of my confusion.

– Robert Graves

I lied, actually. I believe people can succeed at self-change (to a
certain level), but only after a long and disciplined process.
Often at significant cost. Is this cost enough?

Someday..

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And after all the obstacles

It’s good to see you now with someone else


And it’s such a miracle that you and me are still good friends


After all that we’ve been through


I know we’re cool


Remember Harbor Boulevard

The dreaming days where the mess was made


Look how all the kids have grown, oh


We have changed but we’re still the same


After all that we’ve been through…


And I’ll be happy for you


If you can be happy for me


– Gwen Stefani, “Cool”

To love you in the old high way of love…

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Yeats to Maud Gonne:


We sat together at one summer’s end,


That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,


And you and I, and talked of poetry.


I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;


Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,


Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.


Better go down upon your marrow-bones


And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones


Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;


For to articulate sweet sounds together


Is to work harder than all these, and yet


Be thought an idler by the noisy set


Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen


The martyrs call the world.’


And thereupon


That beautiful mild woman for whose sake


There’s many a one shall find out all heartache


On finding that her voice is sweet and low


Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know-


Although they do not talk of it at school-


That we must labour to be beautiful.’


I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing


Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.


There have been lovers who thought love should be


So much compounded of high courtesy


That they would sigh and quote with learned looks


Precedents out of beautiful old books;


Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’


We sat grown quiet at the name of love;


We saw the last embers of daylight die,


And in the trembling blue-green of the sky


A moon, worn as if it had been a shell


Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell


About the stars and broke in days and years.


I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:


That you were beautiful, and that I strove


To love you in the old high way of love;


That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown


As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

– W.B. Yeats, “Adam’s Curse”

Why I Suddenly Hate Google

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Gmail has added that new header above the menu that
spouts what are likely meant to be unobtrusive ads that are related to
the content of the email you are reading.
This is what I got just now.

Stop Cryingliftedhearts.comGet your ex back, mend your heart, get a commitment, and more.

Fuck you and your “let’s make everything searcheable” philosophy, Google.

Karma

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Some day it’ll come around… have some pity amidst your anger.
Are you happy now? If I were driven just a bit more to desperation then
I would ridiculously blame this all on your prescient words that night
after drinks at S.
Words are seeds, they say.

I got my car yesterday. Hyundai Elantra GLS 5dr, sterling silver, and it is
unique and cute. Not like all those admittedly excellently made but
boring Honda Civics. Hyundai cars are well made too, they just have a
bit of a bum rap and an image of cheapo disposable cars that has been
slow to fade. It handles well too, and the engine practically purrs compared to the previous three cars we test drove.

The Institute for Systems Biology has a new website, which is a
considerable improvement over previous one which was disorganized and
really hard to navigate.

Too drained to write more; I just had a conversation that made me
acutely aware of the fragility of my state – being driven to tears by a
friend’s offhand remark which was meant to be an expression of surprise
and a piece of advice. I’ll
just put up Emerson’s poem as a reminder to myself. But it is very well
to
refer the poem to those who are in the proper position to derive
healthy comfort from the wise
words; not so for me… I see now that what every reading does for me
is twist the knife in a bit deeper, and I am sustained by that pain. Ha, I
must be a
masochist, as you’ve accused me of being.

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.

‘Tis a brave master,
Let it have scope,
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope;
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But ’tis a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
‘Tis not for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
Such ’twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
Vague shadow of surmise,
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho’ her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

        – R. Emerson, “Give All To Love”

Please heal.

One heart, used, for sale

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Looking through pages and pages of Craigslist furniture postings this
morning, I started to wonder about the stories behind the “for sale”
ads. Why is she selling that brand new queen bed, still in its
plastic wrappings? Why is he in such a hurry to move out of state that
he’s selling the futon at that dirt-cheap price? Why are they trying to
sell the car, explaining that they’d purchased a new minivan? There are
bound to be happy stories – marriage, a desired relocation,
graduation, a child on the way, as well as sad stories – children
moving away, divorce, breakup, going out of business.

Imagine people
ready with warm greetings at the front door, joking with the visitors,
flaunting their joy at their good fortune with an ease that, when
prodded carefully, could translate into a great deal for hungry bargain
hunters. Picture people masking the hurt in their eyes as they watch
strangers scrutinize their possessions, barter, argue amongst each
other, and finally haul away the objects that may very well be the last
physical fragments of a shattered dream. So don’t be so quick to judge
that gruff old man or snappish young lady who makes you want to stomp
away, muttering, “I would consider buying it if you weren’t so damn
rude” … who knows what things burden their hearts?

The lyrics of this song, which I stumbled across months ago, are
sophomoric. (I haven’t listened to the song, I believe it hasn’t been
released.)
But there’s one part that painfully resonates:

no matter how close
no one really knows the fire that grows
if i could only show you something real this time
in spite of all the emptiness i feel inside
’cause all i ask of you this time
is look beyond the things i said that didn’t shine
try to understand the shades of grey
all of my mistakes
and turn them into colors of a better time
it’s blind sometimes what gets me through the day

   
          – Ken Oak, “Intangible”

Balance

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Today would have to have been marked as a somewhat low point on my
happiness scale if it were not for a piece of news and an accidental
stumbling-upon of the xanga of an acquaintance from college. The
novelty of a new lab setting has worn off considerably, while (probably
mostly self-induced) pressure to really get started on background
research for my project has ramped up. A car deal fell through at the
last minute yesterday, which left me feeling rueful but glad for the
life lesson (make the deal first, then
get the car DX’d in) immediately afterwards, but the realization this
morning that we’re back to square one sapped my energies a bit. This,
combined with an interesting but long lab meeting and two long shuttle
trips, dragged my spirits down by the end of the afternoon. At the end
of the last shuttle trip, I heard from an elated J that he had
passed his quals (as a first-year). It was refreshing to hear such good tidings.

The evening consisted of buying some chairs, eating dinner and setting
up a rudimentary work station so I could start working on my
presentation for tomorrow. Halfway through organizing papers for type
up, I got hit by a wave of boredom, what I believe to be my first since
I started research on the project. Following that came a wave of
anxiety as I wondered what sort of a two-year stint I’d gotten myself
into, whether it will all turn out to be worthwhile, and not deviate
too much from my numerous hopes and expectiations. To distract myself I
scuttled into thefacebook.com and checked the list of friends with
recently updated profiles. A name popped out at me, that of a girl one
year my senior whom I have known as a friend. I’ve often (unbeknownst
to her) admired her from afar, not only for her intellect but also for the joie de vivre that
translates, for her, into a vibrant kaleidoscope of interests as well as a
quietly buoyant personality infused with warmth. There are many people
I’ve known who possess the energy, enthusiasm and talent to carry out a
haphazard lifestyle I might call that of the “overachieving dilettante”
– encompassing various hobbies and activities, but lacking coherence, balance, or
a serious intention to pursue them over an extended period of time.
Almost three years ago, I wrote an entry in my online journal – an ode
to “a few good women”, one of whom was the aforementioned individual.

…These Harvard women who are academically and intellectually
brilliant without being socially inept weirdos or unapproachable pricks
(men tend to do that I think- the smarter they are the.. odder.. they
are).. these girls each possess an inner radiance, a kind of quiet
yet strong confidence that tilts their chins up high and gives them a
buoyant and graceful stride, clear eyes and thoughtful demeanor. I
find these people incredibly attractive.

So the xanga of hers I stumbled upon turned out to be relatively
new
with only a handful of pages, which was a fortunate thing as I easily could
have spent the night reading all of the entries (though of course,
I am now spending a precious part of my night typing this entry). They
were thoughtful, funny, well-crafted accounts, refreshingly devoid of
bitterness, pessimism, pretentiousness, unnecessarily flippant
or crass humor that can depreciate even the most wittily entertaining
and intellectually stimulating composition. There are many things I
could comment on, such as how I can empathize with her search for
independence, or how I became acutely aware of my need to exercise much
more than I am now. But above all, the image formed by her entries –
that of an active and happy lifestyle, dedicated to work without
neglecting the good stuff or forgetting to enjoy the present – made me
hang my head with shame, but also evoked a surge of hope, and renewal.

So a reminder to myself: Work hard now so as to hit the ground running,
but once things settle down let’s pursue that elusive balanced state.

Another test

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As my fas account is on the death roll, making my website inaccessible,
I must find an alternative place to chronicle my thoughts.
I’ve never used a blog before. Maybe this’ll do.

    너에게 난 해질녘 노을처럼
    한편의 아름다운 추억이 되고,
    소중했던 우리 푸르던 날을 기억하며
    우~ 후회없이 그림처럼 남아주기를.

너무 좋아해서 매일 흥얼거리는 노래를 오늘 흑기사 여름학교 수료식에서 또 들었다.
에어컨 안틀어도 집이 덥지 않은걸 보니 이제 여름도 방학도 다갔구나..

opaque violet tulips

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perhaps this will take some time to get the hang of…
still, it sure beats xanga.  :)

It Worked!

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