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
The Sensitive Plant
Tuesday. 1.16.07 10:23 pm
Whether the Sensitive Plant, or that
Which within its boughs like a spirit sat,
Ere its outward form had known decay,
Now felt this change, I cannot say.
Whether that Lady's gentle mind,
No longer with the form combined
Which scattered love, as stars do light,
Found sadness, where it left delight,
I dare not guess; but in this life
Of error, ignorance and strife,
Where nothing is, but all things seem,
And we the shadows of the dream,
It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant if one considers it,
To own that death itself must be,
Like all the rest, a mockery.
---excerpt from "The Sensitive Plant", by Shelley
Monday. 1.15.07 11:35 pm
Browsing through Nutang lately has made me think of this quote by Marcel Proust:
"Words do not change their meanings so drastically in the course of centuries as, in our minds, names do in the course of a year or two.â€ť
How true. Consider, for example, one you may have loved, who broke your heart. The day before she broke your heart, her name was like a butterfly who came to alight on your tongue, and you direct the conversation carefully so that her name stays there as long as possible. This can make you a very poor conversationalist as far as your friends are concerned. It's kind of hard to speak well or with abundant wit when you have a large, winged insect sitting on your tongue. Not to mention the fact that its little, curious probiscus would make you giggle insanely. Unless it was the WHITE butterfly of the butterfly museum of Massachusetts, because those fucking things hurt you!!! Especially when you do this:
In the course of several days, hours, minutes, this person's name can become the damn pixie moth infestation that you can't get out of your room. No matter how many times you see a pixie moth and viciously kill it and throw it in the bin, you will always find another... another reference, another reminder, another DAMN MOTH that you CANNOT EXPUNGE!!! It infects your mind, your dreams (if you can sleep at all!) You sit in class and want to write that name in secret, elaborate languages, surrounded by tragic song lyrics, letting the lecture pass over you like you were a stone in a stream, the words having no real effect on you besides to slowly wear you away. But you don't want that name in your notebook. You don't want it ANYWHERE. You want to talk about it all the time, but when you do it makes your mouth feel dry and gross, and it makes your stomach hurt with rememberance. You oscillate between intense anger, thinking that it would be easier for you if that person had been in a tragic accident and killed instead alive somewhere, going about his day, not wanting you or loving you or caring if you are alive and in pain.
Then your mood changes to the sort of desperate, groggy echo of the love you felt before. You want everything good for that person. You want her to be happy, even if it means that you must drag yourself through the gutter every day for the rest of your life, scraping your face on the abrasive sidewalk, sucking up bits of what was like a catfish on an aquarium wall. You believe that you'll feel like this forever, you'll be in love with her forever. You don't want to think thoughts about how you'll forget her someday, because you don't want to forget her. If you forget the love that you shared, doesn't that mean that it was less somehow? You don't want this person and this love to fade into the past. It would take away everything that was real about it.
This mood usually gives way to despair. WHY? WHY doesn't he like me? What is wrong with me? Why can't he see that I am everything he's ever wanted or needed and *she* is so wrong for him in every way?!?!
In my opinion, this is the worst part. Make it pass quickly, or you will do something you regret. All three of these moods are both painful and incredibly destructive. This calls for another quote by Marcel Proust:
"Like everybody who is not in love, he thought one chose the person to be loved after endless deliberations and on the basis of particular qualities or advantages."
The truth is, this person who just broke your heart isn't the right one for you. And if she chose someone else, or just didn't choose you, it likely isn't because he is better, or more handsome, or more appealing, or of better character. If she did choose him for these qualities then she probably isn't actually in love with him (or you). Love isn't rational. Or kind. So think about it: You didn't choose to fall in love with her. At this point you might even realize that had you had your wits about you you probably would have chosen *not* to fall in love with her. She is governed by the same principles. She's probably fallen in love with some asshole, and she'll figure that out later, and she'll read this Marcel Proust quote and nod sadly because she'll know it's true. But that will not make her fall back in love with you. You don't get to pick. Ever.
Another uplifting quote:
We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.â€ť
So he breaks your heart. You can't heal from that by immediately dating somebody else. You can't hide your emotions, you have to slog through every step, questioning everything, feeling miserable, etc. It sucks. I hate it.
â€śThose whose suffering is due to love are, as we say of certain invalids, their own physiciansâ€ť
You don't have to be sick forever. Cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it.
This person who broke your heart, you don't really want to remember him. It could take years to forget him. You know how when you're falling asleep and if all you think about is falling asleep, it makes it impossible to fall asleep? Well, you need to develop that falling-away-from-this-plane-of-existence kind of attitude that leads to actual sleep. You have to go through all your things and expunge his memory. Then you have to go out and focus on doing all the things you never had time for because you were wasting it on him. At first you can do this simply so it looks like you are busy and happy and you want to make him feel bad. Everybody does that, if that will get you out of the house, then by all means do it. Fake smiles can create smile lines and pave the way for real ones. This will distract your mind from any remaining pixie moths.
After a long time goes by, after you've started to have recreational crushes on random people again, after you've made yourself a more interesting and desirable person through a combination of spiteful reasons and real self-improving ones, you might see your former object of affection again. She might come in with some mutual friends. You might have to hug each other in greeting. During a period of weeks or months or years, that hug will be something special... it will be centered on the stomach, stomach-to-stomach. It will last a little longer than it should. It will be infused with meaning. It will be slightly melodramatic and bittersweet. You'll wonder if the mutual friends were paying attention to the awkwardness and irony of it all.
But eventually, the two of you will exchange a hug, somewhere, for some reason, and the feeling will have totally disappeared. It isn't a hollow feeling, but a full one- but inanimate, like you're expecting to touch a hot pan and it turns out to be room temperature. Nothing. The absence of feeling.
I remember I did this to a guy once. An embrace involves two people, but it is always controlled by the one who cares least. It can be extended by the one who cares more, of course, but the tone is completely set by the one who cares least. So this guy, our hugs were always of the kind described above, even when I hated him, and one day I saw him and everything I had ever felt had disappated: this includes love, anger, envy, pity, and hate. The hug was short and filled with nothing. When it ended I could tell that he knew that and he hadn't been expecting it. The satisfaction I should have felt was dulled by indifference.
Somewhat recently someone did that to me... it was weird. We'd never gone out nor had either of us tried to effect that end. However, there had always been something there, even when he was dating other girls. But recently he's been dating this one girl that he really likes for a while, and they've become, as he tells me, "serious... whatever that means." So when we embraced the last time, all of that specialness that used to be there was conspicuously absent. It was only then when I realized what the extent of their relationship must be and how it had obviously changed from the last time we'd met. It made me happy in a way, because I like them both and knowing the depth of his affection for her made me think that they might last. But it also made me feel bereft. Funny how much meaning can be encapsulated in the absence of tangible emotion.
At this stage, the name of your former beloved to you like a miller moth in a park outside. Small, unimportant, not a cause of concern. Almost as soon as you note its existence you forget about it. That person that you never wanted to forget has slowly turned into somebody that you wouldn't mind forgetting about. And while the memory of your love is never lost, it is relegated to the past where it belongs. You can call it up whenever you wish (you'll find you won't often choose to call it up) but it doesn't haunt your present.
You are free.
Make Sure Your Lab Comes Standard with a Caleb
Friday. 1.12.07 9:43 pm
Well it's quarter to ten, I guess it's time for dinner.
Sometimes surfing nutang and deviantart and facebook are more important than eating.
I had a minor crisis of purpose yesterday, coupled with a complete lack of motivation. The crisis of purpose was averted by an email from ranor, thank goodness, but the complete lack of motivation lived on. It leaked into this morning, but luckily it waned with the passing of the day. Mostly it waned because of Caleb. Let me tell you about Caleb. Caleb turned 27 today. He's a computer nerd. He can program in many tongues. I want to be Caleb when I grow up. When I am 27, and the only impetus that remains propelling towards my thesis defense is the overpowering desire to "get the hell out of this place" like all the old grad students here... I hope I am just like Caleb.
He knows everything you could want to know about computer programming, ArcMap, Unix, geology, astronomy, geophysics, integrals, everything. Or at least, he says a bunch of related things until one of you remembers what the answer is. One time I asked him what he thought that the depth that heat from the surface penetrated into the Martian crust, and he calculated all of the parts of the equation aloud, including remembering formulae, various physical constants, and doing both number manipulation and integrals in his head. He ended the whole thing, "To an order of magnitude, anyway." I really can't tell you how overwhelmingly attractive I found him just then. That is when I resolved to be him some day.
And he seems to have endless patience for people bothering him! "Caleb...?? Why did all of my data points just disappear?" "Caleb, does the fact that it says thmvisget.ERR now mean that it didn't work?" "Caleb, when did the magnetic field of Mars disappear?" He manages to be both one of the nicest people I've ever met and incredibly sarcastic at the same time. This is because he is sarcastic about everything in science and nothing in life, or relating to talking to you. He's my ideal nerd.
When I took Observational Astronomy I almost died of frustration because I didn't know anything about Linux or programming in idl and there was never, EVER anyone there to help me with it. I thought maybe that I just hated Linux and idl and anything that wasn't Windows, because it was SO FRUSTRATING!! But now I know it's because I didn't have a Caleb back then.
I think every lab should come standard with one.
He's always there, always willing to help, and all knowing. Jim tells you what to do, but there's no way he could tell you how to do it. Caleb is the one that gets it done. (and Jay, when he's not in Antarctica).
Someday there will be a young, impressionable grad student like me, and he or she will venture into the Seafloor Lab, and I will be there, as much a fixture of the place as a floor lamp, or Tracing Table Covered With Maps. Nobody will want me to graduate, because I'll Know Everything.
Sigh... maybe I'll be engaged like Caleb, too. But you can't have everything.
A Computer Chip from A Butterfly's Wing
Thursday. 1.11.07 7:38 pm
So I was reading "Physics Today", but it was really "Physics Last October", since that's when the issue was from.
It was talking about photonic crystals. Photonic crystals are an awesome kind of structure where you build a lattice of molecules and you build it with exactly the right spacing so that the walls of the crystal are just as far apart as a particular wavelength of light. If this is the case, it will be difficult for that wavelength of light to propagate through the crystal, or it will only be able to propagate in certain directions, depending on the geometry of the crystal.
People started making these things back in the 1980s, and the ramifications are huge. If we were able to construct a nano crystal and design it so that you could control the flow of light through it (like today's wires control the flow of electrons in electrical applications) then we could send information at near light speed through a computer chip that would be smaller than any computer chip we have invented thus far. Your average fiber optic cable, now able to carry about 40 channels of information, would be able to carry something like 10,000.
As is often the case, no sooner did we develop this technology did we discover that the animal kingdom has been using the same technology for milennia. Photonic crystals make up the iridescence of many butterfly wings, the vibrant quality of a peacock feather, and the brilliant fluorescent light show of certain kinds of jelly-fish. The more equant types of photonic crystals are able to project the same light, no matter what angle the object is viewed. Other types of crystals, like those of the jellyfish, are parallelograms, and they reflect white light in one direction, and a rainbow light when viewed from another direction. The jellyfish can control which by moving its tentacles.
If you made a photograph out of these crystals, it would last forever, because while pigments fade over time, the crystals always channel light in the same way.
And creepiest of all... scientists have been working on making the perfect photonic crystals for decades, but it's really difficult. The crystals are tiny, and small defects can ruin everything. However, if you could decode the genome of a weevil or butterfly and find the gene that codes for the photonic crystals, you could adjust the genes of the creature so that they built the kind of photonic crystals you wanted. Not only would the DNA make it perfectly, if it did make a mistake, it had a self-correction mechanism. Not only that, but you wouldn't have to manufacture the photonic crystal chips... they would reproduce themselves.
So maybe you could get a computer chip by pulling the wings off butterflies....
Kind of makes you think differently about MSN's lovely BUTTERFLY LOGO, DOESN'T IT???????
Some other elements from the Periodic Table
Wednesday. 1.10.07 11:45 pm
For those of us who were sad that "Lithium" wasn't actually about Li and its properties.
My 8th grade science teacher told us that whenever somebody said, "The Periodic Table of the Elements" we were supposed to say, "Ah, Mendeleev" in a really snooty voice so that everyone would think we were really smart for knowing that Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was the one who put it together in the first place. This, shall we now call it-- twitch-- has stuck with me ever since.
Bleed just to know you're alive
Wednesday. 1.10.07 8:50 pm
I just recently got the new Evanesence CD (as evidenced by the YouTube link below). I really liked the song "Lithium" because it has a lot of really tough stuff in it, a real struggle. It makes you think, you know? A lot of people who are diagnosed with problems and told that they should take drugs to fix them are given a lot of crap if they choose not to (and thus choose to remain depressed/bipolar/mentally disturbed, whatever).
It seems selfish, especially if you have a family, to not take the medicine that could cure you and make you a productive and healthy member of the family again. But it isn't that simple, really. Nobody likes feeling depressed, but I think for a lot of people feeling depressed is preferable to feeling *nothing*. Yes, everyone always wants to feel happy, but I don't think anybody wants to feel happy *always*. It calls to mind Brave New World, or even my favorite movie of all time, Equilibrium. People are afraid of depression, afraid of the darkness... but worse still is the feeling of equilibrium, particularly artificial equilibrium. So in this song lithium, she talks about how she wants to remember how it feels to be without lithium. It's scary to take drugs for something, especially drugs that claim to drastically alter your personality and emotions. Emotions, even bad ones, are part of what goes into making us who we are. She says "Here in the darkness, I know myself."
There are a lot of people in the darkness. I empathize with the death metal rockers and the people who listen to all the really heavy stuff, like Pantera and Deaf Tones and Mudvayne and the like. You feel all of these wild, desperate emotions, and the music is that way too... frustrated, trapped, angry, constantly on the edge of some vast void, wind whipping around your body. You are terrified that the wind might cause you to fall almost as much as you are overwhelmed by the desire to jump. "...swan dive into the asphalt...."
And the drugs, the "cure"... yes, it makes you fit in better. It pulls you away from the edge and into safety, but it is a grey, stagnant safety, like limbo.
How much does the drug "cure" you, and how much does it take away the person you have always been? The creature of darkness you have come to understand as yourself? I think it's possible that the drug returns you to how you should have always been if you had been well... it just doesn't feel like that because for as long as you can remember you've been sick.
I'm definitely not saying to not take the drugs if you need them. They are a gift; they make normal life possible for a lot of people they might've shut away in the old days, they give you a new lease on life and freedom from the dark emotions that can choke a life and prevent it from blossoming. But we must improve the drugs. Because without emotion- that's not a way to live.... So I guess what this song said to me is that you have to be patient with people who need medication and seem obstinate in not taking as often as they should...... maybe they just need to remember how it feels to be without it.... both so that they remember why they're taking it as well as so they remember what it's like to feel- to really feel... to feel in every atom of your being... even if that feeling is pain.
To bleed just to know that you're alive.
Tuesday. 1.9.07 10:07 pm
yep, that's me
Tuesday. 1.9.07 8:14 pm
she said i think i'll go to boston...
i think i'll start a new life,
i think i'll start it over, where no one knows my name,
i'll get out of california, i'm tired of the weather,
i think i'll get a lover and fly em out to spain...
i think i'll go to boston,
i think that i'm just tired
i think i need a new town, to leave this all behind...
i think i need a sunrise, i'm tired of the sunset,
i hear it's nice in the summer, some snow would be nice...
boston...where no one knows my name...
-- by Augustana
The song would be "Providence" but it had too many syllables
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