So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre ŕ la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
Tuesday. 5.1.07 9:40 pm
I've been walking home from work again now that the weather has turned, it's very nice. Yesterday I focused on the "texture" of the walk home. That is, I just ran my hand along everything at the side of the sidewalk to see how it felt against my fingertips. The rough bricks, the prickly junipers, the soft banks of magenta flowers, the smooth metal pole, the waxy leaves of the bushes- my fingers drank in all of these textures and yearned for more.
It reminded me of an old habit of mine back when I had cacti- that is, I used to have this cactus sitting by my desk and I would just run my fingers over it while I was thinking. When I no longer had the cactus I took to running my fingers through a little box of tacks. A box of tacks, a box of tacks, I always made sure to have lots of tacks so I would have enough to actually use to tack things up but also enough so that my box of thinking tacks would always be full.
What can I say, I like having texture in my life.
The River V
Tuesday. 5.1.07 6:14 pm
So you thought I was done talking about the river, didn't you?
No, I thought I'd say a bit more. You see, the combination of hydrological engineering, the development of Germany's coal industry, industrialization and its ensuing influx of pollutants into the river... all these things combined to cause the near collapse of the river's natural ecosystem. The ecosystem is important, and not just for people who like to wax on about environmental purity and other quixotic notions.
The fish in the river provided a livlihood for many people-- some of these families had been fishermen for hundreds of years, and now their fish were disappearing. People had always relied on the river to take away their waste products, and for the most part it did... it took them downstream, where they affected other cities and people. In time, the pollutants in the river seeped through the groundwater and into the crops, so that the farmers turned out products that were full of poison. Then there are the normal things people like to lament, like the nesting areas for birds and the drop in species diversity, which from a purely humanistic standpoint might not be as important. The poetic or perhaps inherent, philosophical value of these things, if it could be calculated, should perhaps be introduced into the equation, weighted by the number of people who care about them.
Nevertheless, this series of ecological disasters and disasters like them have been cited as reasons against damming and hydrologically modifying other world rivers, such as the Yangtze (the Three Gorges Dam was completed in 2006, though lots of peripheral construction remains to be completed). So what do you think? The Yangtze has long ravaged the valley with unpredictable flooding. There are many problem with navigability that makes the Yangtze a dangerous and unreliable shipping route. With the damming of the Yangtze, the Chinese have displaced over a million people, flooded several cities (including some with ancient burial grounds, relics, and noteable archeological sites). They have also put the Baiji, a nearly blind freshwater dolphin found only in the Yangtze [more] in danger of extinction, as the dam's presence has increased ship traffic, which can kill the dolphin and disturb its prey. There haven't been any sightings of a wild Baiji since 2004. (10 years from the start of the dam project)
In my humble opinion... the Americans and the Europeans have lost sight of their own history in this matter. Too many generations have gone by for them to remember what it was like to live next to a wild, unpredictable river. None of their family members ever died of typhoid, cholera, dysentery, or malaria. Yes, it is a shame that there aren't as many salmon in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest as there used to be. I applaud the efforts working towards a remedy to that problem. But it makes it really hard to work on a problem like that while you are starving, dying, or living in abject poverty. It's much easier when you are independently wealthy and you live in Portland, Oregon.
Think of Africa here. How disasterous would it be for the Africans to drain all the wetlands in Africa? Pretty disasterous. Well... probably not to the many savannah animals that everyone likes so much- they don't live in the swamp, they live in temperate grasslands. But to the "swamp ecosystem", it would be pretty bad. Ok, especially for the mosquitos. And tse-tse flies. And for the flatworms that cause schistosomiasis. Maybe those adorable hippos, the most deadly of all African mammals, would lose a little habitat. Crocodiles, perhaps.
But how much better would it be if you could free sub-saharan Africa from the yoke of the "tropical" diseases?!?! How liberating would it be if you could free China from the ever-present fear of devastating floods? Here's Africa, brimming with natural resources, unable to get them to market because of horrible roads and hippo/crocodile/disease-filled rivers and you're saying, "Here, lads, here's some money. Don't use it for anything useful. Here's a scrap of food, it will last you until the next time we come by with the charity wagon."
How can you sit there in your house on the former flood plain, watching millions of dollars of increased GDP float by you on the Rhine or the Elbe or the Mississippi... sit there with your rivers tamed, dredged, channelized, and dammed, and lecture the rest of the world on the importance of eco-system conservation?!!?
The River: Part IV
Sunday. 4.29.07 6:07 pm
As the old century gave way to the new, the river was alive with steam ships chugging product against the strong Rhine current. The Great War came. In the Treaty of Versailles, France was awarded Alsace-Lorraine. They began work on a series of hydro-electric plants, diverting water from the river's main bed into a series of loops. The Germans protested--- such removal of water from the river would destroy the water table in the fertile state of Baden and ruin the livlihood for the farmers there. The Germans had no bargaining power, and the French proceeded with their plan, dismissing the fears of the Germans. World War II came as the German people bucked under the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles and allowed Adolph Hitler to come to power. The recurrent dream of "returning the Rhine to the Germans" was reawakened. The Rhine became a Nazi river.
At the end of World War II the borders drawn once again left Alsace-Lorraine in possession of the French. American money in the form of the Marshall Plan came pouring into Europe to rebuild the war-wearied countries. The French took some of this money, shook the dust off the hydro-electric plant plans, and started where they left off, building a series of power plants and a canal to connect the Rhine to the French River Rhone to increase their own commercial success. The German states had no negotiating power. The water table in Baden fell just as feared, drying up the once-fertile farmland in Germany.
The engineering changes made to the River Rhine have boasted many successes: The eradication of cholera, malaria, typhoid, and dysentery in the Rhine Valley. These measures were so successful that these diseases are now considered "tropical diseases" and some people don't even realize that these diseases were once common in Northern Europe before the draining of the marshlands. Huge amounts of farmland was made available. The navigability of the river was increased, turning the Rhine into an artery for commerce into Northern Europe. As a result of the river's navigability, the Rhine Valley became an industrial center for Germany, developing its coal resources; and Switzerland, connecting an otherwise land-locked nation to the sea.
Of course, these improvements came with trade-offs: namely that flooding was not alleviated (only relocated), that the water table was lowered, affecting cropland, and the river's orginal ecosystem was completely destroyed. Popular and delicious fish like salmon were replaced by tough, hardy varieties; the softwood forests disappeared; birds that nested in the marshlands died out; the species diversity dropped down to dangerously low levels. The Rhine once described by the Romans and the Romantic poets was gone. The products of the Industrial Revolution turned the river from a thriving ecosystem to slimy, near-dead canal. However, since the 1970s, efforts have been made at environmental restoration, and in 1997, three years ahead of schedule, salmon returned to the river.
A change made to the river never fails to have unforeseen consequences, and every act (or failure to act) eventually requires remediation down the road. Despite continuous efforts to "perfect" the Rhine River, the river will always be changing, as rivers always do.
The River: Part III
Sunday. 4.29.07 5:33 pm
Undeterred, Prussia, newly rich and powerful, had their own designs for the river. During the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, Prussia consolidated some of the southern German states into its empire. During the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s Prussia took Alsace-Lorraine and with it, the controlling stake of the Rhine on both banks from the Swiss border all the way to the border with Holland. Suddenly, instead of having to ratify twelve treaties before making modifications to the river, they could act almost unilaterally.
Enter Adolph Eduard Nobiling, a seasoned hydro-engineer who had done work on almost all the other major German rivers. Valuing navigational ease above flood control, he made several more Tulla-like cuts and invented a new type of wing dam, which were like jetties coming out from the banks of the river and which directed the flow to the center of the river so that the river would cut a deep, fast-flowing central channel deep enough for modern boats.
He cut a large hole in the underwater quartz vein near the Lorelei that had so long sent sailors to their deaths- decreasing the effectiveness of the siren's song.
Throughout the century the Dutch had been wriggling their way out of the treaties they'd signed promising to make the Rhine navigable "jusqu'au mer" (to the sea) by interpreting this part of the treaty to say, "until the sea"... so they ended their improvements of the delta just shy of the sea. In another phrase, they promised to make the river navigable "au bouche" to the mouth of the river. Since the Rhine splits into several tributaries and therefore has several "mouths", they chose one of the lesser mouths to improve, again stopping German traffic from reaching the sea. They did this because they had long served as middlemen between Germany and the Rhine basin and they didn't want to give up their rights. Their insolence set an example for the rest of the nations, who repeatedly violated the treaty and cited the Dutch examples as precendents. The city of Mannheim posed a particular problem because they had been enjoying their status as the farthest city that could be reached on the Rhine. They were also part of the state of Baden, who had just built a wide rail network and was eager to use this network as a monopoly on the Swiss transport of goods, since the Swiss had no direct access to the sea. Finally, when the Dutch saw what they had to gain by opening the free trade developing on the Rhine, and the rise of the railroad as competition for shipping began to seriously affect business on the river, everyone resolved these conflicts and, with a series of dams, barrages, wing dams, weir dams and cuts, the engineers opened the river up for year-round shipping all the way from the Swiss city of Basel to the North Sea, turning Switzerland into a sea faring nation and Rotterdam into a world class harbor.
These improvements weren't without their problems, however. Unwittingly, the engineers had changed the pattern of peak river discharge. Normally precipitation would fall over the whole region in the winter or spring and the low-land tributaries would swell and feed into the Rhine and be carried out to sea. The precipitation that fell on the Alps would fall as snow and be stored during the winter and spring and come into the rivers in the summer when it melted, meaning that the peak discharge would always come after that of the Black Forest and Alsace-Lorraine tributaries. If a warm spring melted the snow too early, the upper valleys of the Rhine would flood and hold the water temporarily before it went downstream. After the dikes were built to protect this upstream area from flooding it no longer held water and instead it went straight downstream-- faster than ever before because of the steepened river channel and absence of meanders. Thus instead of taking 2.5 days for the swell to go downriver, it took less than 24 hours. Now instead of peaking in turn, the peaks from the upper and lower tributaries met in the same place at the same time and combined, forming a massive peak of water that slammed into the downstream German cities like Cologne, killing people and destroying property at a level never before seen in history. The river bed was constantly eroding, and people started supplying it with gravel to mediate the erosion.
The River: Part II
Sunday. 4.29.07 6:08 pm
In 1812, Tulla went to the governments of the riparian nations and sought approval for his plan: He was going to "rectify" the river, controlling its flood waters and making them predictable; lowering the local water table so that the bogs and wetlands would dry up and become arable farmland, eliminating islands and secondary channels that stood in the way of the "efficiency" of the river's flow, making the Rhine "more perfect": ie, straight. He secured agreement from most of the riparian nations, but he was unable to get a clear go-ahead from the French, who were caught up in Napolean's disasterous invasion of Russia at the time. (Points to people who can say what was happening in the US during this same time, or say the interesting strategy the Russians used to foil the French that winter!) The project stalled for several years until finally Napolean's government dissolved and control was returned to local chiefs on the French bank and permission was granted to begin work.
To begin, Tulla blasted the meandering river, cutting through the meanders and oxbow lakes and steepening the grade of the channel. He shortened the river by 82km. He made the bed particular dimensions in different sections to control the downcutting rate. Unfortunately, the correct equation for calculating the effect of cross-sectional area and perimeter on the velocity of the river and thus downcutting rate had not been determined at this time (it was found at the end of the century by Robert Manning and named the Manning Equation). This equation also had a cube-root in it, which... without the help of a calculator... was a very difficult and time-consuming calculation to make!
In 1827 Johann Gottfried Tulla died in Paris, though his work continued into the late 1800s. His gravestone read, "â€śDem BĂ¤ndiger des wilden Rheinsâ€ť, or "the Tamer of the Wild Rhine".
Unfortunately, a river is not so simple a beast. The men hadn't cut out the meanders completely, there was still a wiggle in the river's path. The river exploited these curves and began eroding them, forming new meanders and undermining the fortifications on its banks. It also cut down into its bed, just as Tulla had planned, but instead of cutting 1 or 2 meters it cut in some places up to 7. At Isteiner Klotz the river cut down until it hit bedrock, after which it formed a series of impassable rapids. Even today an expensive series of locks is required to traverse this part of the river. Because of the downcutting, the water table fell, taking with it the fertility that the surrounding farmland had enjoyed until then. Now all of this land had to be irrigated with long channels coming out from the river. Sediment eroded from upstream began to deposit downstream, clogging channels and forming new islands and sandbars in places they had never been before.
Saturday. 4.28.07 11:00 am
My dad is here to visit, here to visit, here to visit, my dad is here to visit, all the weekend looooong! :D
Spring Time, for Slaves, in Providence
Wednesday. 4.25.07 11:38 pm
So it's spring time in Providence. That basically means that the bathroom has a colony of ants, there's a huge flying cockroach in the moon lab, and the window sill in my office is infested with termites. Yeah! Termites! How 'bout that. Termites, crawling all over the window sill, dying by the dozen along the edge of my desk.
Sometimes Providence is so awesome you just want to throw yourself in front of traffic.
The River: Part I
Tuesday. 4.24.07 10:38 pm
With the American and French revolutions, the spirit of Western man entered into a glorious phase of rational and humanistic thought. Perfection was possible: perfection of governmental process, of city planning, of the human condition. With rational thinking and dedicated effort, anything that humankind concieved of could be put into action. I would say that this spirit of having complete control over the destiny of our species continued all the way up to the Great War.
Amidst this great age of reason there was a man, Johann Gottfried Tulla. Born in Germany, he studied hydrological engineering in Italy before finishing up his education in Paris around the turn of the century (1798ish to 1802- an interesting time to be in Paris if you've ever followed the life of Napolean with any interest). When he returned to Germany he became the Head Water Engineer for the German state of Baden (Germany was not a country at the time, just a random group of independent states).
At the same time, there was a river, the river Rhine.
Today the River Rhine (or Rhein) officially begins in the Swiss Alps in a place called San Bernadino at an altitude of approximately 1600m (1 mile). It forms the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein (I have crossed it at this point), then Switzerland and Austria, then Switzerland and Germany, where it flows into Lake Constance. Basel is the last large Swiss city it flows through before entering Germany, and acting as the border between Germany and the Alsace-Lorraine region of modern-day France. Leaving the French-German border at Strasbourg, it flows through the industrial heart of West Germany; flowing past its coal mines, its textile factories, its world-class vinyards, and some of the largest pharmecutical and chemical factories in the world today. At last it flows into Holland and the rest of the Netherlands, joining deltas with the river Meuse just before they both enter into the North Sea. Today more than 700 barges per day cross the Dutch-German border. The river, hardly the world's longest, (only 1400km in length) carries more traffic than any other river in the world besides the Mississippi. It is navigable year-round from the North Sea all the way to the city of Basel, and navigable most of the year by local boat all the way up to Lake Constance.
The river today was not the river that Johann Gottfried Tulla saw when he looked upon it in the first decade of the 19th century, not even close.
The river in those days was more than 82km longer- it had many meanders and oxbow lakes that provided good fishing for local fishermen. Its path was constantly changing: the town of Bereich started out on one side of the river and in historical time it became an island, and then ended up on the other side of the river, and came back again. The river flooded often, inundating the flood plain with melt-water from the Alps or rain water from the Rheinslate canyons or the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest), which lies along its right bank in southern Germany. Sometimes it had several channels, and it always had many islands and sandbars that made sailing treacherous. The current was fast and dangerous and there were hidden underwater barriers that could take out the bottom of a heavily-laden cargo ship at any moment. One such barrier was near the cliffs of Lorelei, where it was said that a siren sang from cliff's top and distracted the sailors, leading them to their deaths in the swiftly flowing water. At each turn in the river was another medieval castle. Barons and lords of all types lived in the castles and charged a toll for traversing their tiny section of the river, meaning that any trip down its length meant a fortune in taxes and tolls to the noblemen and the bishops of the church. The return trip up the river was extremely arduous. Boats could not be rowed or sailed against the strong current, so they had to be emptied of cargo and tugged by humans or work animals pulling them awkwardly from the bank of the river, or transported by land.
Along the river's banks were large softwood forests filled with willow and birch. There were many bogs and wetlands, and hundreds of species of birds and fish.
The bogs and wetlands also meant that there was plenty of opportunities for water-borne disease to spread, and dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and malaria were common causes of death. For as long as anyone could remember, the people had lived at the whim of the river- shying away from its banks for fear of flooding, staying close to it because of the life-line of water and mobility that it provided.
It was time for all of that to change. It was time for the River to serve the needs of the People.
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