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 Nature of Goodness
Thursday. 11.16.06 4:00 am
Ok, so a Tale of Two Cities. Don't read this if you don't want to hear me refer to what happens in the end.
Sydney Carton. In my opinion one of the most sympathetic and tragically noble characters in literature. A waste of life. A drunkard. Someone who could have been attractive but ruined it by weakness in character. I know plenty of people like this. So I was reading about him on Wikipedia, and I thought the person who was synopsizing him put the question of who he really was interestingly. The person basically said that Carton's sacrifice at the end could be viewed in two different ways: Either he did it nobly and selflessly, giving his life because he cares so much for Lucie Manette and he wants her to have her husband back, something something, whatever. I'll copy and paste the actual entry:
"The most common interpretation of Sydney Carton is one in which he is the selfless benefactor of others. Having grown weary of his life of self-indulgence, he decides to sacrifice it in order to save the life of Charles Darnay, who had shown himself more worthy of living it than Carton had his own. However, a more self-centered interpretation of Carton also exists. In this interpretation, Carton regrets his being regarded as a ne'er-do-well for having wasted his life, and chooses to give it up, hoping that his past will be forgotten and that he will be remembered for his sacrifice. This interpretation suggests that Carton is more concerned with his reputation than with the well-being of Darnay and his family."
Now this made me wonder. Would the fact that Carton gave his life for Darnay just so that people would remember him as a good person instead of a huge failure at life make his act selfish?
I think a far more selfish act would have been to let Darnay die and then attempt to take his place in Lucie's heart after he was gone, don't you? If your whole life was spent doing good for others, but the only reason you did it is because you wanted to die with everyone thinking that you were good, would that mean that you yourself were never actually "good", and your whole life was essentially a farce? If people discovered that your driving force for good wasn't that you were good but that you wanted to be seen as being good, would they decide that you were in fact a selfish person?
Let's turn that on its head. What if you did all kinds of bad things, but you did them for selfless reasons? Does that make you a good person? I can't answer with a resounding yes on that one.
Perhaps the most noble of actions are those in which you make a sacrifice for what is right without anyone ever knowing that you did it. Perhaps everyone thinks ill of you, but if they only knew the truth, they would know that you are noble and good. However, by the very nature of the truth it would be ignoble to reveal it. Yet you steadfastly stay the course because you are essentially good and that trumps your desire for people to see you as a good person.
So that begs the question- would Carton have sacrificed himself for the sake of Darnay if Lucie would have never known about his sacrifice? What if he managed to wrangle Darnay's head from the guillotine and replace it with his own but Darnay never knew how or why it came about? Would he still have done it?
I think he would have.
Waaay off the Richter
Monday. 11.13.06 10:29 pm
I'm learning about how we figure things out about the surface of Venus, considering that the whole damn planet is covered in clouds and they absorb, scatter and reflect every photon of light that tries to come through without transmitting a bit. (well, as little as possible.) This has of course created a runaway greenhouse effect on the planet, which has finally resulted in a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead, and a surface pressure more than 90 times the surface pressure here on Earth. There is lightning on Venus, which is pretty cool, and some rain... but the rain is made of sulfuric acid. Talk about acid rain. The landers that the Soviets put down on the surface lasted only hours before the intense atmosphere fried them completely. So how can we learn about the surface then, if it is impossible to see? Pure. Ingenuity. Of Smart People. Who are not Me.
First of all we use radar. Radar is a type of light which has a really long wavelength, kind of like radio waves. So while a photon of light with a high energy and a short wavelength zig-zags really fast and runs into all kinds of particles on its way to the surface (thus getting scattered away uselessly) radar takes a much more direct path through all the particles and therefore a lot more of the radar beam gets through. If you can bounce radar off the surface and recollect it you can figure out all of the topography on the surface, and to some extent, how rough the surface is (a smooth surface returns a strong signal because it's like a mirror, a rough surface doesn't return as much signal because it's like a broken mirror in that it returns light in every direction, not just the one where the light came from). We use other things, like the reflective and electric properties of minerals, to learn all kinds of things using just radar.
BUT GET THIS: We want to know something about the seismic activities going on in the crust of Venus (the "venusquakes"). But if we put a seismometer on the surface, it's going to be crushed and fried in hours. What to do? These random guys figured out that if you have an atmosphere that is as thick as Venus', the seismic shaking from a quake, that is, the wave of energy passing through the crust, actually continues propagating through the air above the crust after it hits that interface in a measurable way (because the atmosphere is so thick!!). The crustal wave can actually transfer some of its energy to the air, kind of like shaking out a rug underwater and imparting the waves of the rug to the water around it. So by looking for these waves, we can tell what is going on beneath the surface of Venus without even having to look through its atmosphere.
These people are so crafty!
btw- have you ever looked into the sky and seen a flat sheet of cloud that looks like a bunch of parallel bands? These clouds are located at a place in the sky where two air masses of different densities are moving past each other. The interaction of the two densities along a plane causes waves to form. These are the same kind of waves that happen between sea and sky, only not as extreme because the densities of the air are not as different from each other as both are from the density of water. You can also get waves like these from different densities of water, so they are essentially submarine waves. During WWII, submarines wanted to get into the Mediterranean, but they couldn't turn on their engines or they would be detected by sonar. So they devised a plan where they would go down to the depth where two different densities of water causes submarine waves to go through the Straight of Gibraltar. So essentially they surfed into the Mediterranean, on waves 100s of feet below the surface!!
That's why waves are soooo coool.
Monday. 11.13.06 6:52 pm
Jasper continued paddling, and the river opened suddenly into a large lake, crowned by mountains, the images of whom shimmered slightly ahead of the prow of the boat. In the center of the lake there was an island, inhabited by a dark copse of tall evergreens which stood out sharply against the dazzling background of the early mountain fall.
Spirit Island. He repeated the name to Dakar, who bowed very deeply to the old trees, his wings deflected and their tips dragging gently in the water.
"Why do you bow?" Jasper asked.
"I show respect to the spirits of your ancestors," Dakar replied uncertainly.
"Oh, my ancestors aren't here," Jasper explained, "Nobody in my family has ever been here but me. I just come here to think sometimes. It's restful for my mind and I usually think of whatever I need."
"But who delivers the answers you seek? What spirits live here? Not your ancestors?"
Jasper shook his head. "I think of the answers on my own. Sometimes your mind just needs a quiet place. They just call it Spirit Island because it sounds nice. I think maybe the name was passed down from the ancient people who lived here before my race came."
He paused, looking up at the trees as they whispered together in the dying light.
"If there are spirits here," he said slowly, "Then they must be very old indeed."
Saturday. 11.11.06 5:50 am
So my secret crush liked my shirt today, it was my ninja turtles shirt. That was awesome because I wore it today specifically because I knew I'd be seeing him and in hopes that he would like it. Score one for me!
We like the moon
Tuesday. 11.7.06 11:13 pm
You know that picture of a moon that is in the background? I took it myself, through a large telescope I was using.
Wednesday. 11.1.06 11:18 pm
I saw The Departed. A good movie. I really liked Leonardo DiCaprio's character.
Went with my two friends, who laughed long and hard at all of the totally sexist jokes in the movie, which brought upon a very dark mood and made me think about the feminist movement, and how even though I wouldn't characterize myself as a feminist, I benefit every day from the things they collectively accomplished for womankind. If they hadn't accomplished all of that, I wouldn't be able to follow my current career path in the sciences. I probably wouldn't even be in graduate school. I would be in jail, because I would have kicked somebody's ass in a serious way by now, because if it's one thing I can't stand, it's sexist bullshit.
But really, that movie just makes you want to swear and beat people up.
I offered in a very insincere way to give my friend a ride home and he declined, and I was in too dark a mood to be as glad as I should have been.
On a slightly related tangent, you can't really like a guy who likes Boondock Saints, because that is a shitty movie. Girls who say they like it are lying so that guys will think they are "one of the crowd". I'm serious. Come on. Give me a break. There isn't a single character in that movie that you can like. And by like, I mean respect. And it is violent to the point where you aren't horrified or disgusted, you're just bored, like, "come on, would you at least try to kill the guy in a more interesting way, like in one of the coolest movies of all time, The Rock?" Just like Kill Bill, man, was that movie so boring. It's like watching someone else play a video game and just about as realistic.
This movie was good, but that's because Leonardo Dicaprio was in it and his acting was awesome. And his character was someone I could respect. I can feel this turning into another rant on the Princess Diaries II, which was the worst movie ever, possibly worse than Boondock Saints and Kill Bill but it's really close.
I'd better get to bed, I'll feel a lot exactly the same after a good night's rest.
The Bionic Assembly Line
Sunday. 10.29.06 5:25 pm
So we are living on the edge of the future. Some professors and graduate students here Brown have developed BrainGate, a chip that can be inserted into the brain which reads and translates the electromagnetic impulses of the brain and uses these messages to do things, like move the mouse on a computer screen or turn on lights. This is beneficial for the labâ€™s guinea pig: heâ€™s a 20-something quadriplegic- just about the same age as the people who are working on the chip in his brain.
The Japanese have developed a similar chip- just by thinking about it, the demonstrator can open and close the hand of a robotic arm, sitting on a table behind a plexi-glass divider. BrainGate technology allows a person to check email, surf the web, and turn on electrical appliances (all those that can be coordinated by a computer system) with just a thought. This was done by first of all recording the brain waves and electrical impulses put out by the brain, and then devising an algorithm to make sense of all of the different signals so that they could be understood. â€śMove left handâ€ť is a signal that requires an electrical signal to be sent from the brain to the nerves in the hand, a signal that can be picked up by the chip and reinterpreted to do whatever the researchers want it to do.
The researchers at Brown have also recently constructed what they call the first â€śreal, genuine fake cellsâ€ť. That is, theyâ€™ve constructed cells that approximate the look of real cells, but are made of polymer plastics. They are used to provide a platform on which tissues can be grown outside the body, or with which regeneration of certain kinds of cells (like nerve cells or smooth tissue cells) could be stimulated inside the body.
One research group just succeeded in manufacturing nanostructures using a DNA code to deliver the building blueprints for what they want it to make: zinc oxide nanowires. Nanowires are attached to the top of carbon nanotubes through a process where a single DNA strand attracts a complementary strand of specific bases and the researchers combine this with heat and gold in a process that I donâ€™t completely understand, then they bake it for a while and kaboom, nanowires grow according to the instructions provided by the researcher-assembled DNA strand. This break through represents the first time scientists have been able to use an organic molecule to help them build nanostructures. This is an important step because not only are we creating something that self-assembles, but weâ€™ve also found a way to include complex instructions (which is hard for machinery to do but is what life has been doing excellently for billions of years) In the future, we could potentially use the amazing coding power of DNA, together with the light-sensing properties of some proteins, and other organic moleculesâ€™ sensitivity to temperature, pressure, and a range of other stimuli, as a way to make sophisticated detectors and perhaps even computer circuitry.
Crazy, huhn? We are living on the edge of the future. We are blurring the line between machine and man. We are crisscrossing the line between life and semi-living assembly lines. Is that so different than using oxen to drag our plows or dogs to fetch our papers?
It could be that the robots of the future will not even look like traditional robots at all, but have skin that looks like ours, cells that look like ours, even reproductive capacities like ours, the details specified by us instead of by God. They could have processors that, instead of storing information in chemicals and cells and pathways or even zeros and ones it could be stored as a series of quantum packets, the information storage regime of the future.
At Commencement they had a speaker who told us that during our years at Brown, our professors were going to lead us to the edge of a cliff. It was up to us whether or not we decided to jump off, she said. Thatâ€™s a rather interesting way of putting itâ€¦. The older grad students reassured us that yes, we would feel like jumping off a cliff because of our professors by the end of 5 years.
But I think the phrase works well when we consider the way that the future is upon us. The age of AI is fast approaching, and there is nothing that the warnings of Hollywood movies can do to stop it. Weâ€™re at the edge of the cliff. Are you going to jump?
Sunday. 10.29.06 1:02 am
I would call what happened outside today a "squall" but squall seems to imply that it was transient in nature, while this particular type of meteorological event lasted all day long, never wavering in intensity.
Then Toku and I went to the Halloween party, where we met a half-Japanese half-German guy who studies theoretical math. His goal in going to grad school here is to determine how and why one gets paid for something as useless as Number Theory. He asked the couple dressed as Bavarians hopefully if they were actually real Bavarians. But hello, it's Halloween, so no, they were just pretending.
The award for scariest costume went to the fellow in ass-less chaps. The most hilarious person was definitely drunk Audrey Hepburn, whom we ran into multiple times during the evening, and who spoke at length with Toku even though he doesn't really speak English.
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