Saturday, November 15, 2008

Random Reflections on the Grad Student Party of 2008

My advisor threw a party for our research group at his house last night.

I started the evening in something of a foul mood: the cold and rain didn't help, and after a difficult day at "work", I was even less in a social frame than usual.

Plus I worried about the future for no immediate reason. We spent the week working with some folks who were applying commerically the technology we are researching, which was encouraging until I found out their company had never made any money! And that was before the economy tanked.

It was a wives-and-kids party, so there was quite a crowd. I got an ego boost observing that mine was the prettiest wife in attendance, which surprised me with respect to our advisor, who is a pretty charismatic guy but whose wife was not what I had expected. Oh well, I guess that makes me, what, like the NUMBER ONE STUD of the research group! WOOHOO!!!

The group has one female, who, in addition to being the second prettiest woman at the party tonight, is notable for being the only one actually working in the field, as opposed to the rest of us who enjoy lucrative fellowships. She brought her family. Her husband is clearly S.E. Asian (his wife is white, a match you don't see every day) so in my aspergery way I inquired about his "background". At the age of five he fled communist Laos with his parents. He doesn't remember much about Laos, but he remembers the nighttime escape to the Phillipines, a journey that at one point included the sound of gunfire. Imagine for a moment: the entire future of your life, as in whether you get one or not, comes down to a few seconds over which you have almost no control. Kind of puts a perspective on things.

Listening to him, I got an unmistakable impression: works with his hands. I don't mean that in a bad way, necessarily, since I don't consider IQ and education the end-all of character and sociability. But it did make me stop short of asking him what he "did" -- weird, I know, considering I had no problem telling him, effectively, that he looked like a foreigner. But it was a grad student party, and I didn't want to make him feel even more out of place than he already did. Mmmm . . . I guess that means that I really do think that the salient feature of a man is his education. I'm such an asshole.

And myopic. It turns out that I was only half right in my assessment. As my wife told me afterwards, Laos man is a lineman, which as the do-stuff end of engineering is way cooler than the think-stuff-up end the rest of us inhabit. I could have talked to him about power distribution for an hour.

Interesting how status works. Over at Hit Coffee, I recently commented how in my foolish (and self-serving) youth I thought that smart, educated women would be attracted to smart, educated men. But here is someone who not only overcame Secret Asian Man* syndrome but also an average intelligence by having, first, a family oriented character (they have four children!) but also by working in a technical field with BIG STUFF: high voltage wires that can turn you to a cinder if you get too close at the wrong time.

*Go here and scroll down to 3.14.06.

1 comment:

trumwill said...

his wife is white, a match you don't see every day

In my experience, most (SE) Asian men that don't date Asian women date white women. The same goes for Asian women, now that I think of it. Of course, if you see a white/Asian pairing, it is more likely that the female is going to be the Asian, which is unfortunate for young Asian men.