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 ï¿½ 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
A Gentleman in Russia
The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism
Seneca: Letters from a Stoic
Il faut chaud
Thursday. 7.25.13 12:23 pm
It's hot. I'm melting. The sun is eating my legs, micron by micron. My skin is sticky. I put my hair away, it no longer exists. My foot cramps up every ten minutes like clockwork. The fools across the hallway have it worse. Their office faces a fiery stellar orb with a surface temperature of 10,000 degrees. They put ice cubes in front of the fan. Now there is a bath of tepid water in front of the fan, and the room is 35 degrees (95 F) by M's kitchen thermometer.
An email forwarded by the lab manager from the highest possible levels warns us of the dangers of working in the unyielding heat. The first sign of approaching death from heat stroke: muscle cramps.
I've had enough. It's time for the Oreo. The one, singular Double Stuf Mint Oreo remaining in the cupboard. It is time. A little glass filled with 1/3 the remaining cool milk from the refrigerator. I submerge the green and black vehicle of salvation until my fingers sense the phase change from a solid to a saturated granular medium and then it is MINE, MINE, and all of the sensations of a cool ski slope in winter flood my brain and esophagus with delight until it is over.
The heat returns.
Tuesday. 7.23.13 12:50 pm
I don't know what to do with my life.
I guess everyone has to go through this crisis at some point... most people probably go through it after college... or after grad school. I managed to postpone the crisis until now by always knowing what the next step was.
I guess it isn't so bad. I know that I want to research planets for the rest of my life. I love researching planets. I love geology. Space. Stuff like that. So that part isn't hard. But how do I get from my random post-doc in the world's most beautiful city to a full-time planetary research position/professor? Well, I have to go through this time of UNCERTAINTY, and I have to very shortly make a bunch of decisions which could propel me on very different paths. I basically have a year to kill during which I have to apply for a million things and play a giant game of wait-and-see. During this dead year I somehow have to pay the rent... somewhere. I also have to look like I'm "doing something" so that I won't have a hole in my goddamned beautiful résumé which I've worked my whole life to perfect.
I also have to contend with the fact that the best decisions I could make professionally might not be the best *life* decisions, which before now wasn't really a factor that I paid any attention to during my decision-making process.
I also probably have to leave the world's most beautiful city, where I currently live in the world's most ideal apartment. My friends here are so damn happy and well-adjusted. When was the last time I had happy and well-adjusted friends? I really have to go somewhere else and make all new friends? Can't I stay here and just keep the friends I have?
At Pomona College the air has a weird, hazy, golden quality. Probably because of suspended particulate matter from LA, but whatever. When I lived there the weather was always perfect. The physics building smelled like night-blooming jasmine. I used to step out into the afternoon at the corner of College and 6th streets and I'd imagine that my whole life at Pomona College was a hazy dream.
Paris can be like that, too. When I come out of work at night the whole city looks two-dimensional, like a movie set. Every time I cross the Seine and look out upon this splendorous city I think to myself, "I can't believe I live here."
I didn't want to leave Pomona. I could have stayed there forever. But Pomona was a magical hazy dream because I had beautiful friends who made it that way, and when they were gone, the magic left with them. What happens when my beautiful friends are all staying here, and I'm the only one who is leaving?
Multi-Cultural Conversations Part III
Thursday. 7.18.13 6:24 pm
German: What I was surprised to see about America was how many poor people there were. There were poor people everywhere.
Italienne: Really? More than Paris? There are so many in Paris.
German: No, there were way more. I think in America, when you are poor you are raised poor and then everyone knows you will stay poor always.
Me: I don't know about that... that's like the opposite of the entire idea of America, actually.
German: But all the people in America are so poor.
Me: Let me guess-- you took the bus.
German: Yes! How did you know?
Me: In Europe, everyone takes the bus, so you see all of the poor people and rich people and middle class people all mixed up together. In America, only poor people take the bus.
German: Oh really? Because there were just poor people and immigrants and me in the bus.
Me: Don't ask me why, that's just the way it is.
German: So rich people always take taxis?
Me: No, they drive cars.
German: But what if they go to cities that they don't know?
Me: They rent a car.
German: ::mind blown::
Everyone x11: Oh, you're American? But Americans are usually so bad at languages and they have terrible accents.
Me: Well, maybe if your countries made good TV shows, we would learn your languages so that we could watch them in the original versions. But they don't, so we don't.
Everyone: Hmmmmmm.... you do have a point.....
"What language are you speaking?" he asked. "We were speaking English, but we can speak French if you want." He doesn't know English. "What languages do you speak?" All of the rest of us had our languages stuck to our shirts on our name tags, but his shirt was blank. "French," he said, "two Pakistani languages, and two Afghan languages." Our languages were more prosaic. Italian. German. Spanish. He said he doesn't run into a lot of people who speak Pashtun. I've heard of Pashtun, I say. He says that it's sad because people only hear about countries if there are wars in them. He's from Afghanistan.
Where am I from? I'm from the United States.
Nice to meet you. What else is there to say?
He's a carpenter. He works for a company, their most recent project was a garage. It was for an important Afghan minister. But our carpenter considers him a friend. He's been in France for almost three years now. He has a carte de sejour. He says that with his new company he gets vacation. People here get vacations, he says. It doesn't sound like he's ever had a vacation. He doesn't know where to go.
After he left Afghanistan over three years ago, it took him nine months to travel to France. He passed through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France. Which border was the most difficult to cross? All of them were difficult, he says, all in different ways. When he entered Italy it was by clinging to the bottom of a truck that was driving along the highway. The driver didn't know he was there. You just clung to the bottom of a truck and held on until the driver stopped. Sometimes it was six hours. You could only hold on and hope that you were headed in the right direction.
My Italian friend is nodding her head. "A lot of immigrants die that way," she says. So he came, sometimes by train, sometimes by truck, but mostly on foot.
His brother left Afghanistan with him but stayed behind in Iran, content to try his chances there. Now he's in jail for working illegally. He has to raise 3000 dollars to pay the fine that will let him out of jail, and another 600 to pay for his passage back to Afghanistan.
"It would have been better for him to come with you," I say. He says he's thought about that many times.
When he got to France, he didn't know a single person. He told a taxi driver to take him to Gare de Lyon, but he didn't know how to pronounce it. Garedelyon, he said at the time. When he got there he saw an Afghan. They could recognize each other by face, he said. This person introduced him to a group of Afghans who were sleeping in a park. His first friends. He is a master carpenter. He knows everything about every kind of wood. They gave him whatever illegal work they could. He got a bank account, but he couldn't put too much money in it. Bankers watch your account, he says, and if you keep putting in cash and you don't declare that you're working they start to ask questions. So you keep your cash on you, the only place you have, and you spend it. You have to spend it or it will disappear. Eventually he submitted a dossier to the foreign office to gain refugee status. You fill in some forms and then you fill in a paper describing your story. They call you back after a couple months, or six, or two years, to tell you whether or not your story was good enough, or if you'll have to go back. For him it was 18 months. They called him back and they asked him hundreds of questions over two hours. They wrote up his answers. His story, a page and a half originally, bloomed to 21 pages. Two months later they called him back again. Two hours of the exact same questions as before. Why did they want to know everything again? Everything was written in his dossier, every question had been asked the first time around! And then he figured it out---- it was a test. They wanted to make sure that your story was real, and by having you repeat your story several times over the course of many months, every answer carefully transcribed in your dossier, they could catch you in anything that wasn't the absolute truth. His story was good enough. They let him in. He's not allowed to go back to Afghanistan. Not for ten years-- maybe never. Declaring refugee status is making a clean break with the past and the parents and two sisters and a brother he left behind.
"Why did you choose France in particular?" I ask.
"When I was a child, there was a French army that occupied our town. The soldiers were so kind, and always helping the children. For me every country outside my country is the same. I decided to go to the place where I had the barest idea about the people. And I don't regret it--- France! Paris! A secular society! Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ! "
"I had some friends who were refugees," chimes in a guy standing next to me.
"Where are you from?" I ask.
"Vietnam," he answers.
Wednesday. 7.10.13 11:31 am
Wellllll tonight will be my first night without guests since June. I can sleep in my own room, in my own bed, I can take a shower with the door open, I can do whatever I want. I could even write that Nutang entry on existentialism that has been rattling around in my head.
For two nights, I will be blissfully alone-- after which I will have a guest again. But one that I adore, so it's fine.
So why did I decide to host a strategic board game night with 8 people tonight????????
A Tad More Sweetness
Saturday. 6.29.13 3:45 pm
Wednesday. 6.26.13 2:02 pm
On a riverboat ride down the Seine with some British Mars Scientists.
M: I've finally thought of an English joke.
Me: Let's hear it.
M: I just made it up.
M: I think that tonight we have improved our relationship.
M: That wasn't funny?
M: I have another one. Tonight we have made a great friendship
M: Because we are on a ship. Non?
Monday. 6.24.13 6:58 pm
Busy busy busy. Went to a church retreat this weekend. Talked some seriously deep philosophy, slept for about 24 hours.
British Guy: "Who was that one French guy?"
British Guy: "Yeah."
Everyone else: "?!?!?!?!?"
Met my first Young Earth Creationist. The same British guy. A very knowledgeable guy, actually, but he gets his information from dubious sources. He tried to talk to me about the limitations of U-Pb dating, but I'm sorry son, I've DONE U-Pb dating. With a laser.
Today was a meeting for a cool mission that they're sending to Mars in 2016. We went out to dinner afterwards and I sat myself down next to the PIs of the major instrument. They were older than they looked so I got to hear a lot of great war stories. The best one was about how this french guy they knew used to carry a big old bronze bust of Lenin in his suitcase every time he came to Russia. It took everyone a while to figure out that the bust was hollow and he was stuffing it full of caviar right before he left Russia each time. The ratio of men to women at the meeting was about 6-1. At dinner it was more like 20-1.
Guy 1: "What are you going to do when you get your first marsquake?"
PI: "Analyze it, of course."
Guy 2: "Science paper! Bingo!"
PI: "Hopefully we'll get a magnitude 7 right after we land."
Guy 1: "You know that's not going to happen, you never get the big one right away."
Guy 3: "It's like dating... you never get the big thing right away. You have to spend a couple of months or years waiting..."
Guy 1: "Waiting and losing money!!!"
Guy 3: "...before you get what you want."
PI: "We can write a protocol for what we should do after the first marsquake."
Guy 1: "It is so sad, he has spent so many years without getting any marsquakes that he doesn't even remember how to do it anymore."
That part was kind of awkward. I was glad that the one American didn't say anything.
They advised me that I should start thinking of missions now because it took thirty years for many missions to go from the first proposal to actually flying. And then they could fail.
I only had 10 euros so I carefully choose a cheap meal and didn't have any drinks, appetizers, or dessert. 9 euros, perfect. Unfortunately, as I should have foreseen, when the bill came they decided to split it evenly. Which meant that I owed 27 euros. I think they noticed the look on my face, because they decided that there would be a "special price" for post-docs and students, which started at 20 euros but eventually made it to ten euros. Thank goodness.
My building changed the code for the door without telling me, so when I returned home at 11 pm, I was locked out. I tried to access my wifi using my netbook on the street but since I live on the 7th floor, it was out of range. I flipped through my mental Rolodex of people who could put me up for the night.... all of the ones who wouldn't be terribly put out were just terrible ideas. Finally a random guy from my building entered the door and I nabbed it before it closed. He told me the code. What a pal.
Tomorrow more meeting, a riverboat dinner cruise down the Seine with M and the rest of my new mission-to-Mars friends. Wednesday I leave at 6:25am for the Netherlands, where I'll be talking Mercurian volcanoes for the remainder of the week.
Saturday morning, return from the Netherlands.
Saturday evening, meet-up with the "Paris Adventurers Club". The Meet-Up is entitled "Pétanque-a-donk". I am going just because of the name of the meeting.
Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday of the next week: This dude I used to have a very slight recreational crush on for like two months during my sophomore year in college is coming to visit me. We're going to have dinner or something. He's a mathematician. Legit.
Wednesday, J, a (male) friend from Brown U arrives.
Wednesday night, Will is in town from la Bretagne. He wants to go for a drink with me and M. I'll bring J, of course.
Thursday night, the 4th of July, it's the graduation of an old family friend. I've been invited to dinner... do I bring J?
Friday/Sat/Sun... Dinner with the mayor of Greenwood Village. Do I bring J?
Friday... modeling. Do I bring J?
July 10th. J leaves.
July 12th. My college roommate comes!
July 13th. Modeling. I definitely bring her.
July 14th. Bastille Day (The French National Day). The Fireman's Ball. Hot firemen are already all over town selling tickets. I definitely bring her.
July 18th. My college roommate leaves. Tragedy of all Tragedies.
I suggested offhandedly to Will that we go on the Trans-Siberian railroad. He's totally into it. I don't know. I've never really taken that long of a vacation before when I wasn't going home. Would it be sketchy to go on a long vacation to Russia with a random guy? I mean, sketchier than going camping for a weekend with two random guys? Maybe I can convince him to go to Turkey with me instead. Or to Majorca to ride the ostriches.
Eating Ice Cream Alone
Tuesday. 6.18.13 6:03 pm
The Eiffel Tower is sparkling.
My proposal isn't finished. I have until Friday, but I was hoping to finish it before then.
I was craving Ben and Jerry's. I shouldn't have eaten it before, with M. It awakened some kind of latent Ben and Jerry's hunger that had been buried deep inside of me. Chocolate is all I crave these days-- the darker the better.
I went to three different stores to find some. It was 10:30 pm. Finally I had to go to the actual Ben and Jerry's store, which is a minute's walk from my doorstep. A dangerous location. I asked for a pint of whatever they had.
They had some flavor with chocolate cows in it.
Fork it over, pal.
Did I want a bag?
It's to conserve it.
Listen, man, it doesn't matter. I'm going to eat it right away. Fucking cow ice cream's not going to make it across the threshold into my house.
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