The one thing I might never have

Last weekend, I was sorting through a bunch of paper stuff I’ve accumulated since I came to the US in 2004.  I found my little notebooks in one of the boxes that had a hodgepodge of cell phone numbers, notes to self, attempts at budgeting, random recipes and what-have-yous.  Going through one of the older notebooks, I found a poem I wrote, maybe around 2003 (or 2004).  Reading it again, I realized that I might be right – he is the one thing I might never have.  I intentionally posted it here today, on his birthday.

Untitled (circa 2003)

Tears threatening to cascade

   – and dampen my cheeks

But no!  I can handle this…

Or so I believe.


I thought I’m made of strong stuff

Phlegmatic, unemotional – they say

But why does your name

Cause in me a mild arrhythmia?


I have five reasons to forget you…

But it seems an internal conspiracy

Kept you a permanent fixture

In my mind.


Now, I don’t even try

Might as well keep you stuck

in those deep recesses – though it hurts

   – You’re the one thing

                     I might never







Early call and a phone upgrade

Tonight is the night.

I prepared myself for a long night of watching the news networks and following electoral vote projections, taking heed from the tight race being projected during the last month of the presidential campaign.  I expected that it will take a while before the networks can call a winner.  Just before the polling precincts closed in Massachusetts, I made a resolution for myself – I decided to let the presidential election decide for me.  See, I have been flip-flopping about getting a phone upgrade.  I believe I am one of the few remaining people who doesn’t have a smart phone.  As I prepared to “hunker down” and follow election updates, I resolved to consider the long overdue phone upgrade if Obama gets re-elected.  It made for a “thrilling” night – I was tuning in to CNN and CBS for their election projections.  Every time they interrupt the program with a projection, my heart would skip a bit.  For the early part of the night, Romney was leading.  By 10pm, Romney was still leading, but the margin is getting closer – New Hampshire went for Obama, while Ohio and Nevada were starting to lean towards Obama.  I switched to CBS for a good hour to follow local election results, where Massachusetts saw their first female senator elected.  A little after 11pm, CNN gave back-to-back-to-back projections, and when they called Ohio for Obama, it was over.  Obama gets re-elected and I get a smart phone.  That’s what I call a win-win scenario. 😉

This time four years ago – a flashback as we move forward

Exactly four years ago, I wrote a short blog entry about the 2008 election results, with Obama capping the night with his victory speech.  I’m not an American citizen, but one cannot deny the role that the US has in global affairs and this is reason enough for me to be in the know and to be engaged in some way with the elections.  This time though, I am not rooting for anyone.  I am only praying that whatever the outcome will be tomorrow, it will move this country forward.

Blog entry written on November 5, 2008:…-and-for-the-world

For the past five or so hours I have been glued to the boob tube, closely following the US 2008 presidential elections. Let’s face it, this election is one for the books, not because of the many firsts it defined, but more so because of the current state of our world. We are facing serious issues ahead – the recent economic crisis, the wars in the forefront and those that go unpublicized, the moral and social issues we face, our planet Earth in peril. After listening to Obama’s victory speech, I am filled with hope and, as he puts it, a “new spirit of patriotism, a new spirit of responsibility.” This new spirit of patriotism is one that encompasses one’s nationality, one’s affiliation, one’s heritage. We are patriots of the modern world. We are responsible, not only for ourselves and for our family, but for each others’ welfare. I think this is the message and the great challenge that Obama pointed out in his victory address. There will always be disagreements. There will be a lot of debates ahead, but, I think, having a president-elect like Obama opens a lot of doors to the many sectors in our society – opportunities to have their voices heard, for issues to be discussed and to take action. I have my own apprehensions on Obama, especially in key ethical and moral issues. However, I am confident that he will deliver in his promise of change. The calm optimism that he exuded in his speech is a foreshadowing of his overall demeanor. He is prepared to face the challenge, and he has called on everyone to join him. He downplayed the historic implications of his being the first African-American president or the fact that he won most of the swing states, and the electoral college by a landslide. Instead, he called on the American people to take on the challenge and say “yes, we can.”

Of course, the cynic in me says that this a politician after all, and this grand victory speech is just one of the many more sugar-coated propaganda that politicians usually spill out of their boisterous mouths. But I am more of an optimist. And the optimist in me says that this guy can be what a president is supposed to be. Of course, it is not a one-man act, and the bigger picture includes all these traditional politicians and their agendas. The bigger picture is a scary picture. And that is where the American people come in. They should be the “beacon of democracy” that they proudly call themselves. They must show the world that this is not just a one night stint, but a lifetime commitment. Tonight is a glorious night for the American people, they have achieved the change they sooo desired and needed. But tomorrow, we will all wake up to the same problems that we are currently facing. We need to commit to this change. I sincerely hope and pray that this change is for the better, that this change does not compromise our values, that this change will benefit, not only the American people, but the whole world as well. Rock on, Obama!

Writing done!


Writing is over!  The last few weeks leading up to this day is all a blur… I’m really amazed how my brain churned out all the stuff I wrote.  Now it’s time to make the oral presentation and prepare for thesis defense day. Two more weeks.  Another chapter in my life adventure ends… and hopefully I figure out how the next chapter is going to be soon.  Job hunting mode begins two weeks (or should I say resumes in two weeks).  Now it’s time to re-read the dissertation and prepare a battle plan for the defense.  I hope it goes well.

Status Update

Only four days left before the official deadline of the written dissertation.  I can’t wait for this to be over.  I constantly remind myself to breathe and not to dwell too much on the nerves.  The whole process has made me more knowledgeable than ever about my research project.  At the same time, it made me realize how little I know about my field and that there are many exciting questions out there waiting to be answered or at least addressed.  This is the “lay of the land” – my desk, where I have spent at least ten (sometimes twelve) hours each day, including weekends (maybe five to six hours on Sundays)  for the past two weeks, reading, writing and taking breaks online (like what I’m doing now).  It’s not something I’m used to doing – working long hours for consecutive days.  I usually spread out the tasks of the week nicely so that I don’t make myself crazy or too tired.  But when the task requires a lot of thinking and brain power, I realized I can actually stay put and work hours on end.  Well, I really don’t have choice, do I?  And besides, my brain seems to function better when the deadline is right around the corner.  I’m almost there.  And I can’t wait.

P.S. I got an email from one of my committee members – she is going out of the country and will be back a day before my defense, so I have to finish the whole thing a day earlier.  It’s crunch time now!

Amidst the chaos that is my desk, my little yoga froggie reminds me to breathe.

More of the same

One can’t deny the power of a looming deadline.  Well, maybe in my case anyway.  In a span of 4 hours, I have added five solid pages to my draft, something that was really hard to come by when the deadline was still four months away.  Cramming mode activate!

T minus 3: Dots to the right, alright!

Finally, my final experiment (which has been the final experiment for a month or so now) gave me the results that I’ve previously seen, but haven’t been able to replicate with the frozen vials I have stored.  I’ve gone through several vials and even the positive control wasn’t giving me any response.  I needed to show additional controls to demonstrate the specificity of my T cell line and after going through several frozen stocks of said cell line, I found a good vial!  The cell counts were just enough to set-up all the conditions I needed and more than 95% of the cells were viable after doing the assay.  I finally was able to wrap up the revision of my manuscript and address the reviewers’ comments.  What a relief!

Just a couple of the conditions I needed to test my T cell line against.  The cell line responded to influenza virus infection but not to vaccinia virus infection. Sweet!

T minus 4: a snowy leap day

I got another birthday wish fulfilled!  Well, I’ve been telling friends I would love to see snow on my birthday.  Given the mild winter that we’ve had so far, I wanted to have some “closure” with the season.  I needed a snowstorm.  It didn’t come exactly on the birthday itself,but  I think it is all for the best, as I  wouldn’t want to spoil the weekend plans with a snowstorm.  Hopefully the snow accumulation sticks around until Sunday, although I doubt it.  Anyways,I feel like it was my first time to see snow – getting giddy with excitement and marveling at how pretty the winter landscape is with a dash of white goodness.  I guess February 29, 2012 wants to be remembered as that day when winter made a comeback.


If my original plan had pushed through, today would have been my defense day.  But it’s pushed back further to April 3rd.  Thinking about it right now, I can feel the pressure – from family, from friends, but most of all from me.  My written dissertation is still not solid, I am at a loss as to how I am going to spin it off.  I am not feeling confident about my work, my data.  Up till now, the hypotheses we have come up for the project are not really addressed by the data that I have and I’m really scared that my examination committee will rip me apart.  I want to send out a draft to my P.I. for him to read, but I don’t want to give him a crappy draft.  According to my schedule, I should have been done with the Introduction chapter by now. Actually, I have stuff written for all of my chapters, they are just incomplete at different levels.  I tell myself to focus on one chapter, but I end up staring at the screen for quite some time, I feel I’m wasting time.  Add to that the unplanned experiments that had to be done for the manuscript that is under revision.  And I didn’t factor in the time I have to allot for the undergrad who is still doing volunteer work in our lab.  I don’t think extra time would make a difference.  What I need is a change of mindset and a thorough convincing of the self that I can do this, that I need not worry about the other stuff for now.

Let the job hunting lie low for the next couple of days, you’ve sent out a couple of applications.  Let them go through your CV.  You will hear from them eventually.  Press pause for your personal life for now, although this doesn’t mean you shun the world entirely.  You know what I mean.  Don’t worry about being “penniless” in the coming months.  What you need to do right now, at this moment, is to finish your draft.  That’s all there is to this.  For now.

So get back to your word document and just write.  Write, as if your life depend on it – well, my life as it will be and as it unfolds in the coming days, will really depend on it.

T minus 5 days

I realized I haven’t been even paying attention to the countdown myself.  It used to be that I am excited about my upcoming big 3-0.  But now, all that is taken over by more pressing matters.  Like this dissertation for instance.  It’s all that is in my mind right now – am I writing it up correctly?  Will my examination committee rip it apart?  Why do I feel that my “story” doesn’t seem strong enough?  Add to that the pressure of finding a job ASAP.  I get distracted now and then with thoughts of the next chapter – precisely because I don’t know how or where it is going to be.  It’s daunting to be moving forward, not knowing where exactly I will be in May.  The job hunting is going slow, and it’s killing me.  Well, maybe it just seems slow.  I’ve started applying out of state now, who am I to be picky?  My personal preferences – I’m throwing them out of the window.  And as much as I love Massachusetts, I have to be open to other opportunities because I don’t have the luxury of time and money.

My birthday is this weekend and I am hosting a party, but somehow, my heart is really not into it.  I want to press pause, take a breather, maybe postpone the celebration.  But I am only going to turn 30 once, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate the life adventure I’ve had.  This is a tough time in my life for sure, but as the cliche goes, the show must go on.  Life has to go on.  I will be celebrating my birthday and I will be putting my party-face on.  Maybe this is the breather that I need.