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 à 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. 1.21.14 10:24 am
Well, I'm leaving France on Thursday. A tumultuous time. So tumultuous, in fact, that I have to get back to packing now.
My boss is going to drive me to the airport. Cool.
The Case of the Missing Neighbor: The Plot Thickens
Saturday. 1.11.14 4:18 am
Well, I decided to go talk to the building manager. I couldn't find him for several days, so I wrote a note and I left it in his mailbox. I told him that I was worried that the woman might have died in her apartment and to call me immediately. I left my telephone number. On my way back to my apartment, I decided to drop in at the tailor's. When you enter my building you have to pass through a courtyard and the tailor shop is in the courtyard. I have no idea how they get any customers, because there is no sign on the street, and you have to pass through a door with a code to get there, but they seem to be busy all the time. Since they sit right there in the courtyard, they see everyone come and go. I thought they might have some information. I am friends with the assistant tailor, Mounaim, a Moroccan. So I went in and asked about the woman. Mounaim didn't have any idea, he knew that he hadn't seen her in a while, and he thought that she was gone somewhere. He said he thought that her son came and got her. I told him about how all of her disability benefit checks and gas bills are in her mailbox, and he shrugged. "Yeah, if she were there she would have come to pick those up," he said.
The head tailor walked in at this point, and we caught him up on the story.
"Ah yes," he said, in a French heavily accented with Arabic. "She's gone. Did you know she had a son?" I did, I said, but I didn't know that they were in contact. "Did you know that he was living there with her?" I didn't.
Apparently the son hadn't come to get her--- she had gone to get her son. He was severely handicapped-- it sounded like perhaps mentally and physically-- and he was living in a home. She had gone and fetched him and she was tending to him in her apartment. Except for the fact that she's almost unable to tend for her self: her teeth are rotting, her clothes are dirty and don't fit, she forgets to close her zippers, etc. Apparently she had been taking care of her son in a similar way. I don't know if anyone knew that her son was living there, but the neighbors had been complaining about how dirty and horrible the woman was, and eventually the police from the 6ème came and evicted her, taking her son, who was filthy and unshaven, back to the home. The tailor didn't know what had happened to the old woman, only that they had changed the lock on her apartment so that she couldn't get back in.
That must have also been why they changed the code on the door unexpectedly one day a couple of months ago.
That was a lot more information than I had had before, and it weirdly lined up with the woman's story. She had said that the Tunisians on the third floor kept offering to buy both of her apartments, and they were mad when she refused. She said that it was they who had changed the locks on the tiny apartment on the 6th floor, and if they got their way, they would have her out of her big apartment, too. She said they drove the old woman on the second floor to her grave trying to buy her apartment. She said that they were in league with the police from the 6ème. All of these people, in league against a poor old handicapped woman, she had said. Same story, different perspective.
They had no idea where the old woman had gone, and it was kind of shocking the degree to which neither of them cared. It all happened over a year ago, he said. He didn't see it personally, but he heard about it. "Oh, it wasn't nearly as long as a year ago," I protested.
"You're a friend of hers?" the tailor said, not really believing that I would be. "Well," I qualified, "we used to often talk in the stairwell." I decided to tell them the story about how the people were trying to steal her associated maid's apartment on the 6th floor. "I know that she wasn't popular in the building," I said. "It sounds like it was right to take her son away, but I don't know why they would have also evicted her. I just wanted to know the whole truth."
"Sometimes we can never know the whole truth," said Mounaim mysteriously. The head tailor shrugged. He seemed to think that I should forget about the whole thing.
I still haven't heard from the building manager. Neither apartment has been touched. Weirdly, the landing on the first floor smells worse and worse every day.
not finished writing this yet
Tuesday. 1.7.14 2:36 pm
My Future's So Bright, I Have to Wear Shades
Monday. 1.6.14 8:45 am
The Case of the Missing Neighbor
Monday. 12.30.13 1:52 pm
Maybe y'alls might remember my crazy old neighbor. She was the one who used to come up to my floor (the 6th) every morning at 1 am to try to unlock the apartment at the end of the hall. It never unlocked, of course, because she didn't have the right key. Yet she came each night without fail, tried the lock for a half an hour, looked askance at the ceiling and the walls of the hallway, and then descended back to her apartment on the 1st floor. It apparently never occurred to her that trying every night to unlock the same lock with the same key that didn't work the first time wasn't such a swell plan for gaining entry to the apartment.
Or did it? Something she once said to me suggested that she did it just so that nobody could ever sleep comfortably in the apartment. The apartment was technically hers, or at least, it had been hers at some point. Everyone apartment in the building has a corresponding apartment on the 6th floor which served throughout the years as living quarters for the maid. After people stopped having maids, many people sold their maid's apartments, and others rented them out at high prices to young people like me who didn't mind living under the eaves. Her greatest fear was that someone was trying to steal her apartment. She told me that those bastards broke into the apartment and changed the locks on her. She said that those bastards drove the old woman on the second floor to an early grave, and snatched up her apartment before she was cold in the ground. They'd do the same to her, she said. I'd better not tell anyone what she was telling me, she had said ominously. Just by talking to her about this I was putting myself in danger, too.
Anyway, I realized a while ago that she'd stopped coming up every night. In fact, I stopped seeing her, period. I didn't think about it too much. I left for Turkey in October, I returned. I knocked on her door just to see if she was around, but nobody answered. I left for the US in November, I returned. I left for Hamburg for Christmas, I returned. I'd planned to buy her a Christmas gift, just to give her a little joy in her life, but I never saw her.
It was only yesterday that I suddenly realized that the mailbox that was completely overflowing with letters was also hers. I glanced without touching at the mail that was overflowing from the box. Gas bill, gas bill, gas bill. Disability check from the government. I hadn't noticed she was missing, but the gas company sure had.
I asked the guardian if he had seen her. "No," he said, "She's not here. Not here not here not here, don't know where she is. Maybe in the hospital? Maybe in an old person's home? Who knows. She's been gone for a while, I don't know."
I got the impression that he didn't really know.... Though she always told me that he was also a part of this apartment-stealing conspiracy... so can we trust him?
Today when I came home I took my first real look at the side of the building, to see which windows were hers. Her window was open, just a tiny bit. In the dead of winter. On one of the coldest days. She has to be gone, or she would close the window. But who would leave for an extended period and leave the window ajar?
I googled her name. I googled her husband's name, too, even though he's been dead for at least three years. Nothing. Bing came up with a few results, and I finally found at least a telephone directory listing linking her husband's name with my address. Empty-handed.
What am I supposed to do now? I looked it up on WikiAnswers UK and this is the answer that I got:
"Knock on the door and if he answers say, 'just checking as i thought you were dead'"
In other news, I met another person who doesn't believe that we landed on the Moon. I told him that I'd met and talked to a guy (actually two guys!) who landed and walked on the Moon. I told him that I held rocks that were brought back from the Moon and examined them under a microscope. I told him that I've seen pictures from a recent satellite that is currently in orbit around the Moon, which show the things left behind including the tracks of the lunar rovers. I told him how I personally know a bunch of people who are working on that mission, and who go through all of the pictures as they come down. I told him that all of the data is available for free on the internet for anyone to look at. I told him about how people routinely range the Moon with lasers, using the reflective plate left behind by the astronauts as a target. He said I couldn't really know unless I'd been to the Moon myself. Which I guess means that he couldn't really know unless he'd been to the Moon himself. Which I guess means that nobody on Earth should believe that anyone has been on the Moon until each of them has traveled to the Moon personally.
Sunday. 12.22.13 4:42 am
Friday. 12.20.13 7:12 pm
Despite my mounting level of work, the last couple of days have been especially joy-filled. One of our friends defended her PhD today (and is leaving next week), and two others are leaving soon, so it has been a couple of days full of celebrating and saying goodbye. I have been spending lots of time in the office across the hall with our Spaniard, Fuxing the Chinese guy, Madeleine the francaise, and Jeronimo, whom I call "Jeronimooooooooooooooooooooooo!" They hired me in the beginning to write a card in fancy calligraphy, and when that worked out they hired me to write all of their names on post-it notes in fancy letters so that they could label their computers with them, and when that worked out they hired me to draw a stapler on a T-shirt for our Italian friend. They wanted to give her a t-shirt with a stapler on it as a parting gift because the only time she ever came into their office was to borrow a stapler. I had picked up some cool free stuff at my conference in San Francisco so I gave Fuxing a mug that says "Google" and our Spaniard a snow globe with the business card of a random Alaskan research station inside. It was a pretty crappy gift, but it turned out that you could take the business card out and put in your own photo, which turned it from a crappy joke gift into a really awesome real gift. She started out by putting her lab access card into the snow globe. We've all recently been learning Spanish and Chinese, so everyone has been saying "Xièxiè" to thank each other, with the appropriate response being "de nada". We've also been practicing calling each other beautiful and good and interesting in Chinese, with Fuxing as our guide. Fuxing taught us that Chinese people often say "Nakanaka" if they are conversing or especially talking on the phone, kind of like "uhn-huhn" or 'k". So we started saying nakanaka all the time. Since we were working on secret presents for other people in the lab, we closed the door and only people cracking the door and saying, "nakanaka" would be allowed to enter. This worked especially well since it sounds like a hilarious Chinese version of "knock-knock". When Jeronimo showed up he didn't know the game, but when we asked for a password in order to enter he shouted, "NAKANAKA!" And we all laughed a lot instead of doing our work.
My friend's defense went great and we all went to the Argentinian House where she lives to celebrate afterwards with a nice Argentinian bbq. We ate hamburgers and hotdogs and listened to Fuxing tell us about all of the interesting traditions that they have for Chinese New Year. One of my Argentinian friend's goodbye presents was a recipe book that Madeleine had compiled for her by asking everyone in the entire lab for their favorite recipe. She made it look really nice and bound it all beautifully. Now everyone in the lab wants one. I contributed the recipe popovers which they erroneously filed under "desserts".
At long last we had to say good-bye to everyone, and I gave Victor the Siberian one last giant hug. He's leaving tomorrow to live in Siberia forever. When the hug ended I pantomimed wiping away my tears.
"You need to come to Siberia," he said. "Because in Siberia all of your tears will freeze."
Room at the Top
Monday. 12.16.13 6:27 pm
The weather is moderately cold. The streets of San Francisco hums with the sounds of 20,000 geologists, talking, walking, lunching, planning. As usual, plaid shirts, khakis, and tennis shoes make up the standard uniform.
Look at that guy. Dress pants and tennis shoes. That's how you can tell he has a job.
-- My friend, who doesn't have a job
Twenty-thousand geologists is four thousand more geologists than there were at this conference three years ago.
Our numbers have swelled, but times are lean. We encourage our comrades-at-arms who are still in graduate school, but they should stay there as long as they can. Between post-docs, times are lean. That's all we talk about. Who got a job, who is offering jobs, who is starting on their third post-doc, who is moving continents for the fourth time in eight years. It keeps us lean, always being on the move. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and a world-hopping post-doc rarely ever stops long enough to acquire entanglements, like a life outside of work.
Everyone loves talking about their research, but without a single exception they have a back-up plan. Ben is going to be a dairy farmer in Switzerland. Fabio is going to be a waiter. I am going to write a best-selling novel and buy a miniature golf course. Caleb is going to fund his research using his gambling winnings. [I didn't say that our back-up plans were good or even feasible.]
I run into Professor F., one of the members of my thesis committee. I tell him that I don't have a job. I tell him that times are lean. He says that today he was sitting next to some post-docs while he was eating lunch and he heard them talking about what a lean time it was He was grateful that he was a longtime tenured professor.
"My PhD advisor once told me something," he says, "and I am going to tell the same thing to you:
There is always room at the top."
He gives me a nod and disappears into the crowd.
Ok. The miniature golf course will have to wait. Let's be at the top.
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