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
Working at the olfactory
Wednesday. 3.7.07 11:44 pm
So apparently they've previously done these studies on Drosophila (the typo de fruit fly) which indicate that if you constantly keep them on the edge of starvation, they live longer than their well-fed counterparts. Interesting.
Well, a little more recently they did a study that says that if you let them smell food, say, in the next room, or through a mesh, then most of the benefits that they get from being starved all the time are lost. They still live a little longer than well-fed flies, but much less long than starved flies who can't smell food. Just to be consisent, if all the flies live in the same room with a room with food adjoining, the flies with their olfactory organs disabled or removed will live longest.
So I guess there are two questions to be asked here: First, would you let someone keep you almost starved all the time if it meant that you would live a longer life?
For me the answer would be a resounding no.
The second question might be a little harder. Say that it is a given that you are kept at the brink of starvation. Nothing can be done about that. Would you give up a little bit of your longevity to be able to smell the smell of food in the next room? Maybe you wouldn't, because smelling the food and not being able to eat it would just be like torture. But think about it- you wouldn't be able to smell the little bit you would be able to eat, either. What if you had to give up taste, too? Would you give up your senses of smell and taste for longevity? What if you were 40 you were suddenly dying of a mysterious ailment and you obviously have many years yet ahead of you and somebody gave you the chance to escape by death by trading your senses of smell and taste (even if you weren't starving)? Would you do it?
Where the Wind Blows Forever
Tuesday. 3.6.07 8:14 pm
There are times I canâ€™t stand this world anymore
Like a prisoner I watch the birds fly
There are times I can feel I could reach out for more
Then I lay in the grass and I stare at the sky
If I could fly away over the fields
I wouldnâ€™t stay in this place any longer
And if I could fly away over the sea
In my songs I would write how it is to be free
Where the wind blows forever
Iâ€™d try to go
Where nothing else matters anymore
Thatâ€™s where I belong
To the places unknown
There is my home
When I open my eyes the dream is gone
I will never be able to fly
Then I raise my head to the place thatâ€™s my home
And I lay on the ground and I start to cry
And then again I can see
All this beauty around
I will stay in this world
With my feet on the ground
Like the other ones (everybody else) and Iâ€™ll never be
Like a bird flying over the sea
The Lonely Corridors of my own Mind
Monday. 3.5.07 6:39 pm
I read this story about this woman who got hit by a car when she was 18 or something... that day she'd broken up with her boyfriend and gone out on the town... she was walking across the street when a drunk driver hit her. She was in a coma. Years went by. Decades went by. Her parents were very attentive, and then one day they just freaked out and ran away to live in a trailer park in Arizona for a couple of years. They finally got themselves back together and moved back to their hometown and resumed care of their daughter, but they worked with therapists and people to slowly remove her from their lives, so that they'd only visit her every so often. They had to figure out how to live a normal life (and provide a stable home for her little brother!).
One day the father picked up the phone and someone said, "Hi Dad."
It was their daughter. She woke up. 20 years had gone by. She still thought she was 18, but she seemed to know about events like 9/11, which she could only have known by listening to the TV in her room while she was in her comatose state.
After reading this story, I began doing some research on comatose states. (uh, instead of research on volcanic ash falls.... leave me alone!)
Obviously this girl's case was way different than Terry Schiavo, whose mind was total jell-o. Through the years she'd moved her eyelids now and then, and her parents had done some physical and swallowing therapy with her so that those muscles wouldn't turn to glop. She still can't swallow well, but she's making progress.
They say that there are tons of different kinds of comatose states, from the "for all practical purposes dead" kind like Terry Schiavo to people who are even more aware than this girl Sarah Scantlin, who are literally locked inside their unresponsive bodies, totally aware of everything around them but unable to move. So maybe like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill- I got the impression that that was the way hers was. How she was able to like kill people and do karate after letting her muscles pond and atrophy for weeks or months is unknown. That usually isn't part of the recovery, if there is one.
The articles say that that kind of comatose state is definitely the worst kind from a philosophical perspective (usually from a medical perspective it is good because it means you aren't totally braindead) for the person in it as well as for the family, who knows that the person is "stuck" in there. One man thought that this was the state that his son was in- and since he had nothing to gain from being in the hospital, they just brought him home and treated him like a normal member of the family, even though he couldn't respond to anything. They took him out with them and took him on vacations and had birthdays for him and read to him and took pictures of him... and lo and behold eventually he woke up and he was so grateful because he was completely conscious that entire time, and it's like he still got to be a part of their lives even though he couldn't relay to them that he was there.
As I said though, it would be the best state to be in if you were planning on making a full recovery, even though I'm sure during the interim you would wish multiple times that you weren't so conscious. Sarah's mind is coming back, but she still thinks she's 18 and it's going to be a bit of a shock realizing that she isn't anymore. They did say that she could recognize old friends who had aged 20 years, which is pretty good. She kept asking after the family pets, who were of course long dead.
But talk about BOREDOM! Talk about LONELINESS! I first started thinking about this in terms of blindness, but that kind of coma would be so much worse.
Now I am alone in here, free to explore only the lonely corridors of my own mind, sifting through boxes in search of the rainbow, finding only scattered memories that fade everyday just as the light surely faded from my life. Deep within my own skin, at the bottom of a well, willing myself to climb out but endowed with arms I cannot operate. Powerless.
And blindness..... not the failure of focus, for which the conscious brain has forgotten the pathway, but the slow fading of the light, the rapid confusion of twilight, grasping at colors and images in desperate self-arrest down a steepening slope towards a void of blackness.
In other news, today my colleague was showing us his final poster for the conference and I spotted three or four pretty bad misspellings (centerimeter, accumilation, occurence) Our advisor wanted him to reprint it because the poster quality was bad because of the printer. This wasn't such a huge deal because he'd already made the poster into a pdf and he could just send it again at higher resolution. There was no way for me to bring the misspellings to notice without doing so in front of our advisor, which I felt like was in bad taste, so I just didn't mention them at all. I never know what to do in cases like that. Obviously had he solicited criticism I would have offered these corrections, and equally obviously if he hadn't intended to print it again I would have totally let it go. Should I have mentioned them?
Oftentimes, Scott makes me feel like this:
Sunday. 3.4.07 9:14 pm
Saturday. 3.3.07 7:30 pm
Once upon a time, I was talking to my friend and he told me that he was lonely. Lonely. I didnâ€™t like where the conversation was going, so I retorted in a blasĂ© manner that I didnâ€™t know what loneliness felt like. It was not so far away from being true, really. Iâ€™m someone who is very happy in my own company, Iâ€™m hardly ever bored- if I have a pencil and a piece of paper I could amuse myself for hoursâ€¦ even a piece of string or a coin could keep me amused for a really long time. So Iâ€™ve often felt like loneliness is merely an outgrowth of boredom, a sub-category of boredom, in effect, assigned to those people who become instantly bored when they are not with other people. Then there is that loneliness that one feels in a crowd of people- I usually assign that type to â€śbeing emoâ€ť, because the end result is that I slip away into the night and wander around for hours by myself. I donâ€™t think a feeling called loneliness could be attributed to a mood that leads to this end, though perhaps I am mistaking myself.
But then sometimes, there is this feeling, the kind of feeling that comes when a person is alone in a room, the feeling that is imparted when the scene is suddenly silent but for the thwap-thwap-thwap of the blades of the ceiling fan, when the camera angle is from the uppermost corner of the room- an unexpected fermata of place right before the change in scene.
There is this feeling that the world is too quiet, that the room is too large, that the combination of dark blue bowl, bold green soup, clear glass and bright orange juice on a table of woodland brown is colored too deeply for just one person to appreciate.
And your body, which has always consisted of finite ends, interacting with the world as a chemist works through his gloves in a sterile hood, suddenly feels like there is some part of it that is missing.
It feels like for years you have been seeing sunlight through the television, and for the first time you realize that if you go out into it, it bathes your skin with warmth. Now you cannot go back, because the sensation has made a hollow that televised sunshine cannot fill.
So maybe thatâ€™s what loneliness feels like.
Living on the Moon, anyone?
Saturday. 3.3.07 5:04 pm
Jim came back from the meeting about the future of the moon base. They've decided to put the thing on the rim of Shackleton Crater (which is of course fittingly near the south pole) so that the station can recieve sunlight for the vast majority of the year. This is important because the costs of the engineering difficulties associated with surviving through the lunar night are, if you can excuse my terminology, astronomical. However, the disheartening side of all this is that at the same time that they're removing funding from robotic missions to pursue human exploration, they are still woefully underfunding the moon base. This means that the moon base, if/when it ever gets built, will be sitting up there kind of like a lame duck (kind of like the space station is now). It will be there, and humans will go back and forth, but they don't have any money to send up lunar roving vehicles, meaning that the astronauts will only be able to explore for as far as they can walk (which given the size of their air tanks, is only about 3km). If they do want to take short sorties out to other parts of the moon, these initiatives will have to be funded privately, commerically, by NSF (where we compete with people from every other branch of science) or internationally. Given that the moon base is mainly being built as a show of American dominanace over space, the idea that our international collaborators will jump on board to pay for our sorties seems a little naive.
So it seems as if we're clipping the wings of the moon base before we even build it, and we're giving the task of making it all work to the engineers, who will have to even more drastically cut down on its capabilities in the name of safety, and then we're asking the scientists to be happy about it and to throw money at it, when we never really even wanted a moon base to begin with. The vast opportunities for lunar science that such a base would afford us are the first things that are being cut out of the budget as superfluous.
NASA seems to think that they are going to go to the moon for politics, get there with engineers, and accomplish all of this without the scientists. What they fail to realize is that the engineers can only perform at the highest level when they have a synergistic relationship with the scientists. How can an engineer make use of in-situ moon resources without a scientist telling him where these resources can be found and how they may be extracted? How can he make the right decision about where the base should be and of what material it should be built if he doesn't know the proper constrains or the impact history?
All in all, the plan looks like a hodge-podge mixture of ideas from people who don't know what they're talking about thrust upon other people who are too scared or resigned to protest, trying to be sold half-heartedly to a group of people whom they don't actually like or respect, but whom they expect to magically come up with the funding that they still lack. If things proceed like this, the moon base can only be a costly and monumental mistake.
In the days of Apollo, we did some amazing things. We landed many times on the moon, we dug pits wherein we put networks of seismometers that take data on impacts and moonquakes. We collected samples that told us about the history of the moon and its possible resources. We had automated rovers that ferried equipment from one landing site to the next, stopping to take samples and collect rocks along the way like the Mars rovers are doing now, so that when the next crew came down they would have a huge bank of data ready for them to pick up. We had lunar roving vehicles that allowed astronauts to traverse up to 7km from the landing site.
If all these problems can be remedied, if the scientists and engineers can start to work together again like in the days of Apollo, if we can even regain the amount of technical expertise we had in the days of Apollo (half the stuff we did back then people don't actually remember how we did, the plans for the heavy-lift rockets were lost, and many of those people involved are retired or dead by now), and if the politicians can actually see the long term merit of learning something at the moon instead of just going there, then the moon base could be something truly extraordinary. It could signal the beginning of a new age of space colonization, of life as we know it. Science-fiction could become reality. But the hurdles that we must surmount are not small. I've been asked to give my opinion and suggestions on the matter. Any thoughts?
What I've been up to
Saturday. 3.3.07 4:28 pm
I've had many things to talk about, beginning at the beginning of last week (the week of the 19th). I've been turning them over in my mind. There was the visit of our illustrious ex-senator, Lincoln Chaffey. There was my mom's birthday. The excellent conversation (3 hours and 15 minutes!) that I had with my little sister on the occasion of her birthday, wherein I was again amazed at her unique type of insight into life and the world. There is la vida secreta, which is, because of stupid logistical and bureaucratic reasons, was becoming ever more difficult. It's gotten a bit better since then. I met with Baird at the gym this past Wednesday and we practiced for the oral exam, which was funny because all around us there were all these people lifting weights and breathing hard and we were just studying in the corner. Through the course of the evening he had to pretend to be alternately my roommate, my professor, my father, my best friend and my computer salesman. I told him it was getting hard for me to keep our relationship straight. We talked a little bit about how we didn't want to have neighbors with gatos. There is my new research project, which is studying the emplacement of air-borne volcanic pyroclastics on Mars during the Hesperian, with a very intelligent Englishman who tore apart my elementary questions about his research... and then put them back together again into better questions and answered those. He's coming to visit soon and he is so intimidating!!
The hydrology homework from the week before this last one went a fair bit better this time around, though the spreadsheet work almost drove me mad. One night last weekend I woke frequently from dreaming about spreadsheets, my mind racing and believing that unless it was actively accomplishing something in the false excell of my brain, it could not continue in this "falling asleep mode" that I was trying to force upon it.
I finished my computer program, finding out that I could do in 13+ hours what an Excell graph could do in a few seconds.
Jim came back from the moon meeting. I'll have to give that one a separate entry.
Next friday I leave for Houston for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). I'm excited because I'll get to see a bunch of people from undergrad. If Ranor ever worked at AMES it would be so cool because we go out there sometimes to run experiments on Pete's hypervelocity gun. Plus I bet Ranor would get to go to LPSC and I cannot even come close to expressing how cool that would be.
Last night I fell asleep around 1am, then I woke up today around 10:30. I took a quick shower since the hot water didn't last very long, and I went back to my room and slept until 4pm. Hmm.....
In other news, I'm moving. I think it was a combination of things... I was complaining to Seth about my roommates and he said, "You know, you sound really unhappy there! You deserve to be happier than you are." and I thought to myself, yes, I do deserve to be happier than I am. Then a friend of mine came to visit, and for almost the whole weekend we had the third floor to ourselves. The difference between living there with my normal roommates and living there with someone I really like was astonishing. But once again I run into something that needs its own entry to fully explain. Then Seth decided to buy an apartment. I told him I was ready to make a move, and he swallowed me up into his plans immediately. We're going to be living with his friend Leanne a few blocks closer to Brown on a charming little park, really close to the bay. It's going to be so amazing. Seth is thinking about getting a washer and dryer. It's likely going to be more costly than where I live now, but Seth is right: I deserve to be happier than I am, and living with friends in a nice place where the kitchen is "ours" and there is a common room that is "ours" is going to be amazing. I can try and cook Seth some healthy vegetarian meals because I swear he knows even less than I do about cooking and with his dietary restrictions he's going to very shortly disappear. I just have to tell my landlord now and also ask him if I can get out of the lease early and move into Seth's place by the first of June. So now I have to go shoooopppppping or I am going to starve next week. Things are so busy right now that I really didn't have time to sleep all day today. But I think I really needed it. Tonight I'm going to Bethany's house to eat dinner and watch the lunar eclipse.
WATCH THE LUNAR ECLIPSE!!!
Saturday, I swear
Friday. 3.2.07 11:54 pm
Ok, ok, it'll have to be tomorrow, I realized I had to return my movies so I had to watch them all. The Gods Must Be Crazy II was awesome. To Catch a Thief was nice, but Carey Grant looked too old for his costar and I guessed who did it during the first ten minutes of the movie. I usually don't guess, either. Now I'm going to watch this movie called "Osama". I'm halfway through, but it had to be put on YouTube in 8 different parts, so I have to wait for each one to load separately. It's about life under the Taliban and this little girl who pretends like she's a boy so that she can work and feed her mother and grandmother, who are widows, and so cannot go out of the house since everyone needs a male to escort her when she goes out and they don't have one. You should watch it, it's pretty amazing so far. I'm trying to see if I understand any of the language... isn't it supposed to be Erdu? I heard the word "salaam" and the word for thank-you sounded a bit like "shakrun" (thank-you in Arabic) but they say say it WAAAAY differently than the Moroccans.
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