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
Saturday. 5.11.13 9:16 pm
"Do you have a fiancé yet?" asks the old Tajik woman across from me. She is wearing a black t-shirt bearing an American flag and a large fleece jacket with faint stars and stripes on the sleeves.
No, I tell her, not since last month.
"Why not?" she says forcefully. "You are young, beautiful, education, why you not have fiancé?"
I shrug. Same reasons as last month, I guess, and the month before.
"And dog? Why you not have dog?"
This one always seems too complicated to get across in English, so I just shrug again and go back to petting Liszt the dachshund. Liszt was a great composer, and a crazy man, the Tajik woman explained to me last month. He had many women, and sometimes he composed pieces for the piano that were physically impossible to play, just to be difficult. Liszt the dachshund shares many personality traits with his namesake, she says. The pup lets out a startling yelp.
"Waff waff, little dog," she says, speaking in rapid Russian to the dog. She tells me that I can borrow the dog while her daughter is out of town to see how I like it. I can come and live in her apartment at the senior center for a few days, too, to try out her cats.
She returns to the subject of my fiancé. She is looking for a fiancé for her daughter, too, who is some six years older than me. She wants to find an American man for her daughter to marry, because she says that American men are serious, ambitious and puritanical, just like her.
"First I knew nothing of America. Then Gorbachev, I read many American books, and I think, 'I like this people. I like this country. This is my country." I remark upon the rather American outfit that she is wearing. "Yes," she says, "I am a vrai patriote today." All of her sentences, and sometimes individual words, are mixes of French and English, which gives a mysterious and lilting quality to her speech.
French men won't do, she says, because they are not serious. They just want to go out with friends, go to bars, she says. Last month she said that her daughter's french ex-husband was "jogging, yoga, homo, like most french." Russian men won't do: "Lazy, too much drinking vodka... very... brutal." I'm still wondering what happened between her and her first husband, who was Russian. She suggests perhaps a Scandinavian. I suggest a German. She tells me that one of her daughter's friends came back from Dubai with news that Dubai is full of serious, ambitious, marriageable men of all nationalities.
"I don't know if I would marry an Arab," I say.
"Oh no," she says, "Arab is brutal, woman is always second place. Like Slovaks." I don't know anything about Slovaks.
"But no... there are men from all nationalities in Dubai. French, Italian, everything. The Arab is stupid but rich. He bring smart men from all over world."
I ask her if her daughter's friend found a fiancé there, but she shakes her head. "I ask same question of her. She say she didn't have enough time, too short period, etc. etc. She is journalist. She work too much, not realize that journalism is #2 priority, fiancé is #1 priority."
She tells me that she thinks about getting me and her daughter a fiancé at every minute during the month. "Are you racist?" she asks. It isn't an indictment, just a question, posed so that she can better tailor her search for my fiancé.
"Um, no," I answer. She mentally adds men of other races to my list of possibilities.
"I am not racist, but I love the face of my daughter, and I worry that if she make child with man of another race, the face of child will look like other race, and not my daughter. I don't know if I could love this child like I love my daughter."
"I bet you would manage," I say.
She shrugs. "Maybe." A man of any race is better than no man at all, after all. A mulatto grandchild, as she calls them, would be better than no grandchild at all.
She says that she looks for men all the time during the church service, but in the 10 years she has attended she hasn't found a single one that wasn't already married. I suggest that she try the later service, since young single men have a hard time waking up early.
She says that these days men aren't so romantic as they were in the past. When she was a stewardess for Aeroflot, she had a pretty nice figure, so men were always saying, "Hey you, pretty girl, come back here. What are you doing tonight?" etceteraetcetera. Very romantic.
"WAFF!" adds Liszt. She says that he came from Milano, he is an Italian mafia dog. She says that these days men are more likely to say, "Oh! What a gorgeous dog!" instead of saying, "Oh, what a gorgeous woman!"
Yet another reason why I need a dog, she adds.
Grants and Friendship
Friday. 5.10.13 3:09 pm
I'm writing a bunch of grants. It's kind of fun. I get to ask for money and then tell people what I would do with it if they gave it to me. Each time I could win tens of thousands of dollars, plus free trips to conferences around the world! Sure, my colleagues don't really see it this way. I guess it's hard to see it that way if you have people who depend on your income. I'm just so surprised and delighted that anyone would offer to give me money for doing what I do that it's difficult not to be grateful.
French A moved to Colorado. From the sounds of it, he is very lonely there. His roommates aren't too friendly and there aren't many young people at his lab. I told him to go and join some clubs on Meetup.com. I think it's hard for a lot of French people though-- in France it's pretty hard to move further than 3 hours from home; and if you move to any big town you usually have a bunch of childhood or university friends who move there with you. Most of them have probably never been a situation where they have to start from nothing.
When I came to France I didn't have any friends for quite a while. I'd say that it was a good 6 months before I had any real friends. Even then I only had the Canadian for many months. But I don't mind being alone: I didn't even really think of it that way. I just thought of it as one stage in a familiar progression of stages. You move somewhere new; you are completely alone, you hang out a lot on Nutang; you make provisional friends with really weird people who you would never normally hang out with; you slowly make good friends; you bond deeply with people-- then you leave.
I was a new kid in middle school. I moved far away for college. I went abroad. I moved far away for grad school. I moved to Paris. For a while I was kind of addicted to moving away. I liked making friends and then leaving them and starting over again from nothing. When I went on Semester at Sea I was utterly delighted by my rash and drastic decision to leave completely alone on a voyage around the world. The only part I hated was the very beginning, when I took a taxi ride by myself from the airport in Vancouver to the cruise terminal. I've always hated taxis. I hated the weird, dark Day's Inn that I checked into-- the first hotel I'd ever stayed in by myself. But I reminded myself that I wasn't going on this trip despite the fact that it was going to be hard-- I was going on the trip precisely because it was going to be hard. I do things that I don't know how to do precisely so that I may know how to do them. I do things that frighten me because the next time I do them they aren't so frightening. The world gets bigger and bigger. I left the Day's Inn and immediately got lost in downtown Vancouver. I ate at the American Embassy:
and immediately felt better about my choices.
Anyway, I hope French A finds some friends in Colorado. And I hope that by writing my first grant that I learn how to do it properly.
England's Last Dinosaur
Wednesday. 5.8.13 7:27 pm
I'm in England at a meeting about the surface of Mercury.
M1: Yeah, we made a Facebook page for our mission and we were sharing photos of our meeting in Japan on it, but then they made us take them down because they said that it would look bad if people saw us spending tax payers' dollars doing things in Japan.
M1: Yeah, in Japan we went to this place where they gave us sushi but it was completely coated in gold leaf.
Me: So you're saying that the pictures that they made you take off the Facebook site were of mission scientists using European tax payer money to eat food literally covered in gold. I can start to see why they made you take it down.
We are at a lovely country estate about a half an hour from London by express train. There are peacocks here on the grounds. I can hear the male calling out even now. It sounds like a dinosaur. If you watch it carefully, it *looks* like a dinosaur. Having live peacocks at your science meeting might feel like the height of luxury, but apparently they are from a nearby zoo and they are always escaping and coming to the estate. The estate people put them in a truck and drive them back to the zoo, but they always fly back over to the estate as soon as they can.
Conversations with Mimes
Thursday. 4.25.13 1:42 pm
My Invisible Boyfriend
Wednesday. 4.24.13 1:06 pm
Tuesday. 4.23.13 10:40 am
We are loping along the sidewalk in a part of Paris that I have never been. On our left there is high-rise building after high-rise building. On our right is a set of dirty train tracks and broken metal fences, bordered on the far side by the river Seine. The Eiffel Tower is at our backs, exploding out of the pavement at the end of the street. I turn around every five minutes to make sure it's still there. I am trailing behind my friends by a few feet. They are talking about unimportant things-- movies, books, astrophysics. Every ten feet there is a tree surrounded by a square of lush, unruly grass overflowing with bright yellow dandelions. My gait feels cyclical: dandelions, pavement, dandelions, pavement, Eiffel Tower, dandelions, pavement. The sweet cadence of my beloved friends discussing astrophysics in a language I struggle to understand provides a rich harmonic. For only the second time in months, the sun shines brightly and warmly upon the pavement, illuminating the bobbling dandelion heads.
I haven't thought about work all day, it suddenly occurs to me. I've barely thought about work all weekend. We spent an entire hour today just sitting by the edge of the Seine, watching the water flow by and talking about fantasy novels and the Higgs Boson. We just hung out, full stop. I didn't think about anything but the warm cement against my skin. When was the last time I did that? Is this what life is like outside of grad school-- just strolling along the sidewalk on a sunny day, talking about nothing, celebrating the bursts of green and yellow vegetation exploding with life from the cement? Where was the ever-present cloud of guilt and agitation which has hung over every moment of my free time since God-knows-when?
I nod back at the dandelions. Yes, dandelions. I'm bursting with life, too.
Saturday. 4.20.13 4:15 am
I haven't updated in a little while. I've been pretty busy. My lab took a little trip to the countryside where we listened to everybody from the whole consortium of labs talk about their planetary science research. I got to hear about what French people reaaaaally think of Americans. Which is that they think that we 1) have a giant amount of money to spend on space research (so the Europeans shouldn't feel too bad that their space program is way lamer) 2) that we are militaristic (they were describing the Deep Impact mission, where we crashed something into a comet and then took pictures of what happened, as being 'so typically American') 3) That we are a bit anal about deadlines (a guy gave a talk about how working on the Curiosity Rover at JPL in California was like being in prison because everybody worked with military-like precision on round-the-clock shifts to maximize the science output of the mission... to give a counter-point, the Italians have an active radar instrument on a satellite currently in orbit around Mars which they TURN OFF during the ENTIRE MONTH of August because nobody wants to miss his vacation. Active space mission. Millions of dollars per year here.) They also think that Americans don't actually have their own culture, and that our culture is just a mix of a bunch of different cultures (they have clearly forgotten that culture is our biggest export). They were laughing about our obsession with receiving money promptly (most American enterprises won't start working on a collaborative project until the first money arrives in the bank), but then they began lamenting the fact that due to bureaucracy they have collaborating nations who finished their work more than a year ago and have yet to be paid. Some people came up to me afterwards and apologized that their colleagues were being so frank about what they think of my countrymen. I was not fazed... just think about how much more awkward it would be for a Frenchman hearing what Americans really think about his countrymen!
On the other hand we got to learn that they find that working with the Russians to be mind-bogglingly frustrating because you can't trust anything they say vis-à-vis deadlines or costs. I told them that you just can't trust communists. They said that now that I live in France I'll have to change my mind and learn to love Russian and the commies. NEVER.
The event was at a luxury golf resort and spa, and all of our lunches and dinners were three courses with five pieces of cutlery and two types of wine. The quality of the food was.... amazing. Especially the french toast made from a slice of brioche and covered with french vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. O.o
When I returned I ran straight to an Argentinian tango class that I found on meetup.com. The room we were supposed to be using was locked so the guy took us to a real tango club. It was in a small alleyway through an unmarked door up several flights of stairs and into what seemed like an apartment but was actually a club. It was the first time I had ever danced the Argentinian tango, but surprisingly my other dance experience held me in good stead and by the end of the evening I was dancing with everybody in the room. I finally got home around 11 pm.
My So-Called Life
Friday. 4.5.13 5:57 pm
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