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. 10.16.18 3:31 am
Today I woke up early and was in the shower by half past six. It was dark outside, and suddenly all of the lights went out.
So there I was, in the shower, no light to be found. I could barely see the dim outline of the window of the bathroom. As my eyes adjusted, I could see the square of my window a little clearer, until BAM! A SHADOW BLOCKED THE LIGHT! WTF! WHAT WAS OUTSIDE MY WINDOW!
I was a little scared, but I decided that it was probably nothing so I finished washing my hair and I got out of the shower. I mean... what else was I supposed to do? Turns out the lights cutting out and the shadow passing in front of the window were related-- it was a wind storm, and some kind of falling tree had cut out the power. The shadow in the window was a bunch of branches on my neighbor's tree.
There is only wind here about once a year, so it catches us off guard.
I was so distracted by the wind storm and power outage, I forgot that it was Monday and there was supposed to be a guy coming to replace my shower. I guess I'm glad he didn't come by when I was in it. Especially in the dark. So I forgot to leave a key for him or put away my dog.
I went to work, and I was being interviewed by a Brazilian TV station. They are doing a story about the movie "First Man" and they wanted to interview someone from NASA about what is going on right now regarding the Moon in the space program.
I was being interviewed outside the gate of the center, but the wind was so INSANE that the interview had to be stopped every few minutes as some other item would fall over or go whipping across the field of view. My poster of Mare Tranquillitatis, which was neatly wrapped in a tube, burst open and wrapped itself around the tripod leg of the camera. By the time we wrestled it back into a tube shape, it had torn in several places and gotten a bunch of bends in it. I didn't do a great job at the interview, either, because I forgot half of the names of the missions that our lab has going to the Moon, and the other half I wasn't sure if I was allowed to talk about on TV. Oh well--- hopefully it will only be on TV in the nation of Brazil and I will never have to see it.
The day was completely filled with meetings, and when I wasn't in a meeting, people were texting me about work related things. I guess I have a reputation for responding to texts faster than emails. But texts take longer to write.
In one of my meetings I learned that the wind had collapsed my friend's chicken coop, killing one of his chickens. :(
The wall that I had built, on the other hand, with lava rocks sticking out of it, stayed perfectly stable.
By the end of the day I had done nothing except accumulate more things that I was supposed to do. I went home and ate dinner and thought about all of them, and then got ready to go back to work for a late work-a-thon to catch up. I looked at the clock. 7:45. Suddenly: PANIC! I had been signed up for a massage at 7!! I was so stressed out about work that I'd missed my massage!!! WORST DAY EVER!!!!
Now I am back at work. Whether they will charge me for my missed massage is still up in the air. I had missed a call from them during the day saying that the person I had the massage with had to cancel (hallelujah!) but that they rescheduled me with someone else and still expected me at 7 (nooooo!)
Anyway, I rescheduled my massage to Thursday, so if you see me on Thursday night, you should say, "SHOULDN'T YOU BE GETTING A MASSAGE!?!?!"
I blame the wind.
I am Tired
Thursday. 9.6.18 3:44 am
I am tired. Today I got to work by 7, led a teleconference with the whole science team from 9-10, and then worked feverishly for the rest of the day setting the science team up to do some tasks.
Meanwhile I am trying to build a wall for my Moon rover to rappel down. I have to finish it before the end of the fiscal year so that it can be costed.
Tomorrow I am giving a talk remotely in Providence, Rhode Island at 9 am. Then I have meetings all day. The most fun meeting will be the one at 11, when all of my Moon buddies and I get to be in the same room.
Starting in October, we'll get what they call a "War Room". We'll have the same conference room from now until the proposal is due in May, and nobody is allow in there except for our team. The thing that I'm probably most excited about is to have that room to decorate. I kind of want to buy myself a big throne chair to sit in, and I want to hire my friend who works for the Natural History Museum to build a fake lava wall onto the entire side of one wall. She says that they do it all the time. I also want to cut a big hole in the conference table and sink a scale model of my Moon cave into the hole. Then we can move scale landers and rovers around in and around it using long sticks like it's an actual war strategy room.
So far I have gone so far as to buy a rug from the UK that looks like a big hole in the floor if you look at if from the right angle, and a set of Japanese curtains with the Moon and some cherry blossoms on them to make the doorway look more mysterious.
Oh well, off to bed. Goodnight, Moon.
The Science Team
Thursday. 5.24.18 1:39 am
Thursday. 5.17.18 7:02 am
I am building a mission to the Moon.
There are many rungs left to climb between the Earth and the Moon, but we are climbing them, one by one.
Political rungs, funding rungs, technical rungs, scientific rungs. All we can do is keep climbing, one at a time, building the ladder as we go.
The hardest time of the month for a Moon mission is right now-- when the Moon is new and cannot be seen in the sky. Not only that, but it's been raining for the last few days and the clouds have obscured the stars.
Today I rolled out of my house and back to work around 9 pm to put in another 4 hours in addition to my normal workday. Then, at the end of my street, I saw it: the perfect sliver of the crescent Moon, hanging just above the Hollywood Hills. Within minutes, it had plunged below the horizon. Dark, orange, so slender that you can't believe that it's really the Moon. It appeared in the sky at the perfect time, as a portent, or a gleaming carrot.
"Get back to work," it said.
Sunday. 5.13.18 7:04 pm
Last week I went for a massage, and I got a random massage therapist because I had to change my appointment at the last minute.
She arrived to fetch me from the "relaxation room" a bit late, and started to apologize profusely and assure me that I would get my full length of time. I didn't care... I was so relaxed! I had just been in the relaxation room!
She took a long time to talk to me about my chart, and what I liked in a massage, and what I didn't like, and she told me some things about my muscle groups and how they worked together, etc. I already liked the way she really seemed to listen to what I was saying.
About 5 minutes into the massage, I realized that I had found my Massage Soul Mate. She was the best therapist I had ever had, and the massage was like a dream. Soon she said, "Is this ok?" and I said, "Uh, yeah... it is freakin' amazing. I am so happy right now-- this massage is the best."
"You are clearly an expert," I added.
"Really?" she uncertainly. "Today at lunch I was thinking about quitting."
"WHAT?!?!" I said, "That would be a huge crime to the world of massage-lovers everywhere! In fact, I was literally just thinking to myself that after so much shopping around, I had finally found the perfect massage therapist. DON'T QUIT!"
We spent the rest of the massage talking about massage, and her doubts about her abilities, and some of her interactions with other clients that had caused her to doubt, as well as good reactions from other clients that had kept her going. There were so many great things about her-- she was able to massage in a way that was never ticklish (for me, a very ticklish person), her hands were naturally very warm, almost hot, but still dry. Every time she had to move my arm or hand or leg to a different position, she did it so very gently and kindly, like she was moving the hand of a sleeping child. She knew tons of things about kinesiology, to the point that she seemed like a psychic in the way that she could diagnose how I slept, or how I sat in my chair at work. She even diagnosed (and corrected!) a problem in my ankle that I'd suffered several weeks before on a backpacking trip but hadn't told her about. When she asked me about an ankle injury, it took me a moment to remember... I said, "Oh, I never have problems in my ankles... well, actually... now that you mention it, I did have a big problem a few weeks ago when my ankle hurt a lot and swelled up after a backpacking trip." she said, "I could feel it-- it was still out of place, but I fixed it! I guess I do know a thing or two...!"
In the end I was able to convince her by enumerating her many excellent traits as a massage therapist that her massage therapy was a gift to the world, and she shouldn't quit.
Towards the end of the massage, after a lull of silence, she said in a shy voice, "Do you ever feel like some people come into your life at a certain time for a certain reason?"
Yes, I do.
Japan of Future's Past
Wednesday. 4.18.18 3:25 pm
Living in an Airport
Wednesday. 2.28.18 3:37 am
Sometimes, when you travel a lot, you start to feel like you're living in an airport. This week, for me, that is literally true. I am attending a conference that is taking place in the Westin attached to the Denver International Airport. For three days, the airport is my house, and whenever I desire food or entertainment, I just skitter over there and the airport is my playground.
I have always liked airports. They are simultaneously busy and immaculate, with vaulted ceilings and shining buffed floors. Everyone is in transit, hurrying from one place to another, except for when they're not, and everyone suspends the normal standards of behavior and falls asleep on the floor.
The Denver airport is special because it is my home airport. I remember when it was built. I remember when the state-of-the-art baggage system was shredding people's bags, and when conspiracy theorists blamed it on the spirits of Native Americans over whose graves the airport was rumored to have been built. I have eaten countless times at the Panda Express on the second level. Countless times I have ridden the escalator up from the trains to greet my waiting family, usually wearing silly hats. It feels both strange and comfortable to be living there now.
The airport is full of memories. Leaving for Semester at Sea. Leaving to move to France. I remember as a child walking down the concourse and seeing in red letters above the gates all of the exotic cities that one could visit: Chicago. Los Angeles. New York. Miami. Twenty-five years later, and I've been to all of those places.
Last night my plane touched down at midnight. I checked in at the hotel and then spent the entire night working in the ultra-modern lobby, looking out at the airport, which never sleeps. I went to sleep at 6 am but had to be back in action at 8:30. The airport has everything you need, at any hour you might need it.
Tonight I ate some more Panda Express and found a spot to read on the mezzanine overlooking the exit to the trains. Tired as I was, the busy airport breathed life into me, and I read several chapters of my book about the Moon. I like to read about the Moon.
It's one place I haven't been yet.
Friday. 2.2.18 6:50 pm
I watched "500 Days of Summer" on the plane to Ethiopia. It is basically the saddest movie ever made. It is sad because you spend the whole movie thinking about how you are Tom, whilst we not even recognizing that you are Summer to someone else.
As the plane descended towards Addis Abbaba, my constant companion, the Moon, set over the horizon, followed by the hunter, Orion. The plane made a broad sweep and I came face to face with the Southern Cross.
The first person I meet in Addis Abbaba is a dark-skinned older woman on her way to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. She is yelling after an airport employee, who doesn't hear her. "People aren't helpful here," she says, "in the United States they woukd stop." Soon after a tall, young handsome toffee-skinned man arrives and helps us navigate to the bus between terminals. He was originally born in Somalia but his parents now live in Ethiopia. He is headed to Jigjiga to see them. His children live in Nairobi, Kenya, and he lives in San Diego. It is very expensive, trips like this, but he must do them. As soon as we have settled down to wait for the terminal bus, an elderly Ethiopian woman appears in the company of an airport employee. Her name is Alga. "People are so nice here," she says to me by way of introduction. "I didn't know where to go and so this nice man went out of his way to accompany me to the bus stop. Everyone in Ethiopia is kind like that-- you will see, my daughter." She is originally from Ethiopia, but now she lives in Minnesota with her white American husband and children. They met during the Vietnam War, when there were many US servicemen stationed in Ethiopia (of course?).
"People are wonderful," Alga continues. "I am a people person. I always want to be around other people. They are so friendly and loving." I agree. Juba wonders aloud when the bus is going to come, as she has a flight in an hour. Jigjiga says not to worry. "You have plenty of time, m'am."
"What we really need is World Peace," says Alga. "You know, Michael Jackson said, 'It doesn't matter if you're back or white, you know that song?' Well he's right, it doesn't matter." I take advantage of a pause in her speech to heartily agree.
"One time," Alga says, "Someone asked me, 'How do you feel being black when your husband and children are white?' (Her children, she tells me, are as white as I am!) I said, 'It doesn't matter if you are back or white'. And then right afterwards Michael Jackson came out with that song! What do you think of that?"
That is quite a coincidence, I say, implying that maybe it wasn't a coincidence at all.
"I like that song," she said. "Back then it was a bit bad, you know, between black and white, but now it is ok."
"What we really need in order to get World Peace," continues Alga, "is to pray." I agree.
"HEY YOU! HEY MY SON!" she shouts at Jigjiga. "We all need to pray," she says, when he looks up from his phone.
"We were talking about how to get World Peace," I supply by way of context.
"Oh yes! We must all pray! You are right m'am." He replies.
"And the sister over there!" Alga says loudly. "Yes," replies Juba, distractedly. "The people are fine," she says. "The problem is the government!" Jigjiga laughs. "Where is the bus?!?"
"I think she has never traveled before," says Jigjiga says to me confidentially.
"You know what we must do? We must all pray for peace in the world!" continues Alga, clasping her jeweled hands together in prayer. "We all want the same thing, you know. We just want people your age [indicating me and Jigjiga] to grow up to be my age... that's all we want."
"That's why we moved to the US," says Jigjiga. "So that we can live quietly in peace".
"Well, who knows about the US these days," says Alga.
"Of course there are always problems everywhere," says Jigjiga. "But as long as there is a place that respects the rule of law, the people can live in peace, no matter what small things happen."
"You are Somali, aren't you, my son. Where are you going?"
"Where? People live there?"
"Yes, lots of people live there. Everyone lives there. They have a mosque right next to a church. And everyone lives in peace."
"Ethiopians live everywhere," Alga says. "Because..." She sweeps her hand. Communism. Military rule. Civil war. The Diaspora. That's over now, according to Alga. Ethiopia is the safest country in Africa. And the people are honest. And helpful. It isn't like Kenya, where the officials are corrupt and you have to pay bribes for everything. Here it is like the United States. Everyone respects the rule of law. You will see.
When we get to the passport control, everyone brings out their US Passports. Ah. Ethiopian, Somali, South Sudanese. What a gaggle of Americans we are.
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