Musings w/ Green Tea Lattes & Ariana Grande

Good evening, World. [Or good morning/afternoon, depending on where you are in the globe.] Coming at you live from Cafe de Lipa in Lipa, Philippines. Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side’ softly emanates from the overhead speakers to set the mood on this low-key yet frisky Saturday evening. Girls are speaking Taglish in the chairs behind me, and I’ve just polished off an iced blended green tea latte likely loaded with more sugar than I care to ponder. Anywho, I thought I might pewp out a quick blurb for my WordPress faithful. [How many people actually read this stuff?? Most probably few, but all goodie…]

A bit more dust has settled since my last post, but not enough to accurately gauge a future course of action. Essentially, I gave a presentation last week for my current internship, and everyone seemed impressed with the overall content. What does this mean for potential job outlook? … Let’s not speculate too much at this point, but we’ll see what transpires.

Despite initial culture shock, the Philippines now seems a more comfortable potential home with the intriguing opportunity to learn more of Filipino culture/language etc. Roughly eight cumulative months away from the U.S. (with a brief intermission in September) has revealed a unique set of experiences and opportunities presented through work in a foreign country. Your limits are tested in countless ways; you learn to acclimate to your surroundings, to grow comfortable in an uncomfortable and at times intimidating environment. You become a more empathetic human being through the challenges encountered in this unfamiliar territory. At the same time, you learn of the innate compassionate nature of other humans regardless of cultural differences. If you have an opportunity to visit the Philippines at any point in the future, do so. While many may flock here for the beautiful mountain landscapes, or the pristine sandy beaches in more touristic regions, the best part about this country is its people – welcoming, empathetic, and genuine people. That’s all for now. I’ll keep you in the loop, if you so desire to hear more. Best regards, friends.

– Dave

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Winding roads, destination TBD

What’s up everybody? It’s been a long minute since my last post, and I hope you’re well. What has happened in the last 10 months? Well, I finished my PhD dissertation and obtained my degree, spent 5 months in the Philippines for an internship, spent 3 weeks in Thailand for the same internship, flew back to the U.S. for the birth of my nephew and to deliver a long overdue PhD Exit Seminar, and then flew back to the Philippines to spend 2.5 additional months completing some projects before departing once again for the U.S. in three weeks. Oh, and I lost my phone last month, but all is chill.

At this point, I’m just trying to figure out life, as usual. Job hunts, contemplating scenarios of moving across the world and how that might impact family and friends… Questions. Life is filled with questions. All we can do is keep on pushing, keep putting our best selves forward to the world, and see what unfolds. I’ll come back with another post when some dust has settled and the way ahead appears a bit less hazy. We can save any discussions of decision-making when there actually is a decision to be made. For now, take care friends. Much love. – Dave

Let’s Talk about Differences

I’m going to take this to a topic I haven’t gone before, one that’s clearly sensitive in the present climate of our country – racial divides. The rationale stems from a sour experience I encountered last night, and a desire to open a constructive dialogue. For context, I am a white male – pretty much as white as they come. [Specifically, I am 99.5% European; I was genotyped by 23andme. Check out their website at 23andme(dot)com for more info.] My mother’s ancestors are descended from Italy (specifically, Sicily) and arrived to the U.S. in ~ the early 1900’s. My father’s ancestors hail from Ireland and came over at some point during/after the Irish potato famine. By my looks, you wouldn’t guess that I’m any part Sicilian, as my complexion is fairly light. Anywho, I’m a white male.

To make a vast understatement, my demographic has privilege in our U.S. society. One would have to be delusional to think otherwise. Is it correct? Of course not. Do I want to perpetuate this inequality, not only of race, but of class, sex, sexual orientation, and religious belief [to name some more prevalent matters at hand]? Of course not. As a graduate student in the field of genetics, I refuse to believe that humans are better than any other species on the planet, let alone that certain subgroups within Homo sapiens are better than others. [In fact, humans are pretty terrible and basically parasitic to our planet. Read ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ for greater perspective relevant to the manner in which humans (specifically Homo sapiens) drastically altered our planet and its biodiversity after the initial migrations out of Africa. I digress…] So it stands to reason that I would be upset if someone knocks on my door, first engages in friendly conversation, and then accuses me of racism at conversation’s end.

To be clear, I am not looking for sympathy. And I am loathe to generalize or categorize any subgroup within our society based upon the actions of one individual, who likely has been pre-conditioned through past experiences of inequality to draw assumptions of those from alternative demographics. The sharing of this experience is not meant to vilify one individual or victimize another. It is meant to paint a portrait of the current mistrust between demographics in our country, not only those between ‘white’ and ‘latino’ and ‘black’ and ‘asian’, but also those between ‘male’ and ‘female’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’, ‘muslim’ and ‘christian’. It is the sharing of this experience that I hope will open a constructive dialogue for those of various and differing identities within our society, to grow together in our differences, to embrace one another and to learn from one another.

Last night, I heard a knock on my door at approximately 8pm. I opened to greet a courteous, well-spoken, and well-dressed young man about my age, holding a pamphlet and appearing ready to make a sales pitch. I thought it interesting that he quickly identified our skin color differences, saying that he was surprised to encounter a ‘tall white guy’ in a predominantly Indian and Korean neighborhood. [His assertion of neighborhood demographics also was not quite accurate, indicating that he was not from the area and leaving me perplexed. And of course skin color does impact everyone’s day-to-day lives, but is it necessary to point out as the first talking point in a friendly encounter?] He first engaged me in conversation for a few minutes, a strategy common for salesmen and completely within line. I had no intention to purchase anything, as I am a graduate student with $10,000 debt to my name, but there’s no sense in being rude before a salesman makes his pitch. He asked some amicable and non-invasive questions (i.e. ‘Do you play sports?’ ‘What’s your favorite team?’ etc.) I engaged in return; we exchanged handshakes, smiles, a few fist bumps, and then he gave his pitch.

He was selling magazine subscriptions, not for personal use, but to be given to sick children in hospitals. My first thought: door-to-door magazine sales are notorious for scamming. Secondly, the fact that I wouldn’t even receive the magazine struck me as odd, and the heartbreak story that they would go to sick children also raised red flags. He had on top of his pamphlet some sort of badge of identification, but with no manner for me to determine whether this was legitimate. I then stated that this was a lot of information to process, and that I couldn’t be certain because sometimes these things “aren’t legitimate”. He could’ve been white, blue, green or purple, and I would not have purchased a magazine subscription. Yet unfortunately, he then implied that my doubts stemmed from racism and abruptly asked that I close my door.

To be clear, this very well may have been a scam, based on the thousands of other searchable incidents of door-to-door magazine sales scams. Perhaps he wanted to try to get a rise out of me after I called his bluff. Yet it still hurt, and left me pondering. What if he was a genuine salesman, and truly perceived this scenario as an act of racism? It’s not necessarily the notion of being called ‘racist’ that stings. Most frightening is the concept that I may somehow add further fuel to a combustible racial fissure. I won’t claim that I know how to solve any of the complex social issues within our country, which are deeply rooted in a history of oppression and inequality dating back to the founding of this nation. To be open, sincere, unbiased, and kind to others are the only manners that I currently know how to contribute in a meaningful way to our society, and I feel we all can use such tools to help heal and strengthen our nation from within, in spite of its current social and political climate. Of course this is easy for me to say, as a member of a demographic that has never experienced any legitimate disadvantages stemming from skin color or biological sex. Even still, I don’t want to perpetuate this current system, and want to do my part to fix it. I’m a white male, and this is my perspective. How can I help?

An Open Letter to my Viewers…

If I ever come off as a huge terd for anything that I post here, please call me out for it. I realize that my previous post wasn’t exactly feel-good, and wasn’t entirely warranted. As a candid commenter noted, every airline has the same policy that I was adamantly condemning. Does that make the policy morally correct? No. Were my frustrations unfairly targeting only one airline? Yep. Do you like reading about people moaning and groaning online? Probably not… so I’ll keep my grievances to myself for now, and share only what might actually be useful and positive for any viewers who pass by.

I was going to delete the previous post, but instead figured I’d leave it up as a valuable life lesson. That being, don’t be an ass, and take criticism as a means for improvement rather than a personal attack. Not all critiques are valid, but separate your personal feelings from the situation to determine when your critic might have a valid point. That’s all for now. Be easy.

-Dave

An Open Letter to Delta Airlines:

So I normally like to keep posts on here chill and positive, but I just had to speak out and share this experience, in an earnest yet likely fruitless attempt to adjust the policies of the careless corporate giant that is Delta Airlines. If the following strikes any chords for you, please share in any way possible to help spread this message. While I’m now [very thankfully] in the comfort of my apartment, I wrote the following open letter earlier this afternoon, at a loss for things to do on the freezing cold Delta air plane, which had possessed a rather poor selection of entertainment and no complimentary wifi… Anyway, here goes my rant.

Well, Delta, you’ve really outdone yourself. You’ve succeeded in killing [in horrendous fashion] a relationship with a previously very loyal customer. I’m currently on the final connecting flight of my journey from Boston to San Francisco, and this will be the last Delta flight in which I ever partake. The storm system that caused massive disruptions, delays, and cancellations through Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) International Airport last night truly put you to the test, and you’ve failed miserably in the way of customer service. Over the past two days, what should have been a three hour layover in MSP airport turned into a 15 hour overnight stay, equipped with a cancelled flight and no form of hotel voucher or monetary compensation for food/lodging. I personally don’t take too much pity on myself, and wouldn’t expect that of anyone else; I’m a 27 year old single male with only myself to care for. If I have to spend a night in an airport, so be it. Yet last night, you treated all of your customers with equal and horrid distaste. Twenty-something year-old single travelers, families with small children, elderly citizens in wheelchairs – we’re all the same, apparently. What of the mother standing directly in front of me in the rebooking line, traveling with her young daughter (no more than three years old)? Was she granted a simple hotel voucher when she inquired of one? No. She was holding her sleeping daughter in her arms as she asked for this small consolation, and your representative explained that it was not possible. Your rationale: Delta is not held liable to provide temporary accommodations for delays and cancellations out of your control (i.e. due to inclement weather). This policy is outrageous. If you have customers, especially those with young and tired children, stranded in the airport overnight, you need to do something about it. I personally held no ill will toward your employees, as this was entirely out of their control. Some were in fact quite pleasant and helped in the best way that they could. That can’t dismiss the fact that your policies for accommodation and compensation are completely devoid of any aspect of genuine customer service. These are horrendous systematic flaws derived from the top of the hierarchy, and you must correct them.  Not for my sake; our relationship is severed beyond repair. I, along with many other disgruntled customers from the past two days, no longer will fly with you ever again. Consider this letter a favor to you [for the retention of your still loyal clientele], strongly suggesting for you to change your policies. Elsewise, countless others will continue to abandon your abhorrent services in droves. While the handsome compensation package of Welch’s gummy bears was quite tasty, somehow it seems you could’ve offered a bit more than cookies and fruit snacks – perhaps a bed… perhaps a shower… This shall go down as truly the most unforgettable airline experience in my young life, and I’m sure many others from this ordeal will agree.  Here’s hoping that you change your ways, but knowing that you probably won’t.

Best regards,

Dave

P.S. Below you’ll find some captioned photos from the overnight stay in MSP.

Why Ball is Life. Passion, Health, Growth.

‘Yo, you wanna run?’ ‘Yeah, for sure.’

Ball is life. The feel of the composite brushing your fingertips with every dribble, that smooth release stroke that you know is cash the moment it leaves your hand, the indescribable exhilaration when you stuff the guacamole out of somebody driving the lane. NOT IN THIS HOUSE! GET THAT GUAC OUT.

Ball is life. You’ve probably heard the saying before. More often than not, it’s embedded within a joke or non-serious sentiment. But to countless ballers out there, including myself, the phrase rings true in more ways than the casual onlooker could ever imagine…

It’s not just about the basketball. It’s about the steady growth over time, both physically and mentally. It’s about pouring yourself into something with the unavoidable outcome that you will improve each week. It’s a passion, an outlet, a stress-release, a friend, a means to make friends, a character-building journey. The list goes on and on. With the proper training regimen, your body grows on and off the court. You become stronger, quicker, more mobile, more agile, more skilled, more confident. With the proper mentality, you become smarter, craftier, more mature, more team-oriented, more humble, less selfish, and better – as a human being – inward and outward.

I’ve spent four and a half years as a Genetics PhD student at UC Davis, grinding it out in the lab, in courses, in TAships, through my qualifying exam, and through the inescapable bull-dooky that comes with navigating academia. As all grad students will tell you, in order to survive, you need outlets. You need to be able to escape from life as an academic, if but momentarily, in order to maintain balance in your life. Mental health. Physical health. Emotional health. I’m sure there are many other more intricately defined facets of the health wheel, yet these three surely are vital to your survival and prosperity as a grounded and centered graduate student [and person]. Whether it be through basketball, badminton, wood-working, metallurgy, or the like, we all require some alternative passion to immerse within and emerge improved each time. With the concept of steady progress, in any aspect of our lives, the world begins to make more sense. We feel fulfilled as we move forward each day. Week by week, that shot gets sweeter, that dribble-game gets more on point, those cat-like defensive reflexes grow into lion’s instincts ready to pounce on the nearest shot with the spirit of Dikembe Mutombo, himself. NO NO NO. NOT TODAY. 😀 [Triple finger wag.]

The take-home message for the day: We need balance. All of us need balance in this world, the reassurance that we are making progress, and the peace of mind that we have a release with which to place life in well-founded perspective. For myself and many others, that release is basketball. For you, that may be something entirely different, and that’s beautiful. The next time that you hear the phrase, ‘Ball is life,’ you may want to chuckle, and rightfully so. Yet I also ask that you take that time to reflect on your own passions and be thankful for every waking moment that you are able to live out those passions. Be thankful for your release and for your source of growth. At the end of the day, we all are human, and we all have the innate prerequisite for progress. Be true to yourself and always grant yourself the freedom to grow within the passions that you love. Savor those moments, and you’ll be happier for it.

With sincerest love a good wishes, Dave signing off for the evening. If this post happened to resonate in any way, feel free to comment below. Positive dialogue is always welcome. 🙂 Until next time, take care friends.

– Captain Dave

 

Crossroads Chit-chat, PhD Life

Aight baby, let’s do this. So this blog post is going to be a bit different from the standard whimsical brain garbage that I dump out onto the screen. Well… maybe it won’t, to be totally honest, but we’ll see. Today I’d like to talk about some crossroads, without getting super duper filled with cheese, because nobody likes cheese in large quantities. We’ll just keep it real.

At this point, I’m nearing what should be completion of my PhD track in Genetics. I’m in my fifth year, and barring any setbacks (which appear unlikely given the steady progress thus far), I’ll be heading out of the graduate student door sooner rather than later. So what does that mean for the future? … Who knows? Because I sure don’t. I guess I have somewhat of an idea in terms of career path, but if I were to tell you that I had everything mapped out from here, I’d be lying. I’ll probably do some sort of plant science research working toward sustainable agriculture, but even that isn’t a given.

For any other grad students in similar situations (that is, having gone to grad school away from home/family), it seems like there are a few different routes to take. A: Find a job back closer to family. B: Find a job relatively close to your grad school area/ professional network. C: Go somewhere new. For me, option C is looking sexier and sexier with each passing week.

I spent the first 22 years of my life in or nearby the greater Boston area [aside from a semester abroad during my third year of college]. My parents have owned the same home for my entire life, and I went to undergrad two hours away from my hometown. While I’ll always be tied to my roots, and strongly anchored by my family, I can’t shed this feeling that there is more to be explored. In the past four+ years, living as a UC grad student, I’ve been able to immerse myself within a new place and just ‘be’ for a while, letting myself marinate in this new atmosphere, meeting new people from various ethnic backgrounds, learning of different cultures and lifestyles. Overall the entire experience has been very enriching and quite awesome, and if you are contemplating graduate school far away from your home roots, I’d highly recommend it. With that said, now that this California grad student chapter is nearing a close, I find myself wondering, ‘What’s my next step?’ I had posed the same question to myself during my last year at undergrad, and so the question returns.

The last time around, I decided to move across the country, and it was absolutely the best decision I ever could have made. Aside from the funky cool genetics knowledge that I’ve gained, the mind-stimulating maize-microbe interaction project I’ve been working on, and the friends that I’ve met along the way, I’ve also dramatically upped my game on the bball court. Four additional years of balling on a college campus with young bloods [way more skilled than you are] can only help your game. We fly high, no lie, you know this… BALLIN!!!!! Anyway… Given the fact that it’s all worked out pretty nicely, it seems only logical to contemplate another move to a different and exciting new place, perhaps to work outside the U.S. for a bit and learn a new language of some sort. It’s a big world, and I’d be curious to learn a bit more about it while the time is right.

That’s all I really have in the noggin for now. For anybody that actually reads this, I’ll keep you updated with my thoughts and motivations moving forward. If anyone is on a similar train of thought, and needing to make a decision sooner or later about where to go next, feel free to share a comment here. Despite my 0 blog followers, maybe we can get some sort of dialogue going. Thanks for reading about my thoughts, and have a great evening. For that matter, have a great life wherever you end up going. Be thankful for those that love and support you, and do your best to live right by them and ensure that they know how much you truly love and appreciate them. Alrighty, I think that’s enough preaching for the evening. PEACE!!!!! 😀