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
Star of the County Down
Monday. 4.1.13 4:31 pm
So I planned a little trip for myself to Ireland in May. I'm flying into Dublin, driving along this lovely coastal highway near a lough and through the hill country to 'where the mountains of Morne meet the sea'. After that I'll go on to the grave of St. Patrick and finally on into Belfast. From there I'm going to the Giant's Causeway (GEOLOGY!!!)
and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge,
Dunluce Castle and the Glens of Antrim. After that it'll be Donegal and the Sliabh (Slieve?) League Cliffs and the Silver Strand... stay the night, drive down to Galway, see what they know. From here I'll start heading back to Dublin across the middle of Ireland, stopping for the Festival of Fire, which is apparently a revival of the ancient pagan festival of Beltane, and consists of playing traditional music, lighting giant bonfires, and watching people dressed up like ancient Irish warriors ride horses across the plains. Only they added modern bands and FIRE DANCERS. It's supposed to be "family friendly". At last I shall return to Dublin and fly to the meeting I have to go to in England, as the planet Mercury is not going to explore itself.
So far my favorite thing about Ireland is the fact that half the places on the map sound like they belong in some awesome fantasy novel. The other half of the places on the map I've already heard of a million times in Irish songs. Take, for example, the Star of the County Down.... apparently there is an actual County Down.... like Down County. What?!
From Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay
And from Galway to Dublin town
No maid I've seen like the sweet colleen
That I met in the County Down.
I have all of the Pimsleur lessons I need to learn Gaelic, so I guess I should get started.
Friday. 3.29.13 10:22 am
Me: Wazzup homies?
French3: Whazzah ohmie?
Me: No. Wazzzzup, hhhomie. G-funk.
French3: Is that what Americans are saying these days?
Me: No. We were saying that like... in the 90s I think. Really old-school Gs.
French3: So what could we say in present-day America?
Me: I guess you could still say, 'Wazzup dawg'
Mr. Mime: Whazzah doggie?
Me: No, you can't say that. Wazzzup dawg.
French3: Wazzup hot dog.
Me: No, you definitely can't say that.
French3: But what if she is a good looking girl? Then she would be a hot dog.
Me: No. She definitely wouldn't. Anyway, 'dawg' is something you call guys. If you want to call your girlfriend something, though, you can call her 'boo'.
Mr. Mime: Bou.
French3: 'Ey my Bou?
Childhood in Siberia
Wednesday. 3.27.13 6:46 pm
"In the winter we lived in the city. In the summer we lived in a small village. Not a village like they have in France... a village village. In those days most families had at least one cow. Some had a crowd of cows. I had many friends in the village."
Viktor the Siberian is telling me about his childhood. We are surrounded by drunken french people.
"It was just me and my mother. She took me to the village in the summers. In the winter it was too difficult to stay; the winter is very cold in Siberia. There were people who stayed during the winter, yes, the real people of the village. Things are different now. Many of the buildings are empty. There is no work on the farms anymore. Some people try to grow enough to live, but nothing interesting grows. My mother grows strawberries now, flowers, something interesting. She only goes to the house to prepare it for the winter."
A drunken frenchman interrupts us, settling an arm on each of our shoulders.
"Where you from?"
"Russia," says Viktor the Siberian.
"Where you from?"
"America," I answer. The Frenchman lifts his arms in amazement.
"An American! A Russian! Talking together!"
We are both taller than the Frenchman, Viktor with his Russianness, I with my heels. For a moment we feel larger than we are, two representatives of vast nations, East and West, the globe balanced between us. The Frenchman disappears back into the crowd.
"It doesn't matter who you are as an individual anymore," I tell Viktor the Siberian. "You are Russian, that is the only important thing. You drink nothing but vodka, you drive a tank and you have a pet bear." He smiles his Russian smile. I demonstrate how to be American for him... my demonstration consists of saying "Yeee-haw!" and pretending to draw and shoot pistols from my belt. He says that he is going to try that in America, and pantomimes the scene. "Hmmm... he seems American, but he must be Russian," I remark, pretending to be someone in the fantasy, "why else would he have that bear following him?"
"Bad bear!" he says, directing his attention to where I was pointing. "I told you to stay home! No!"
"There were trains that came by our village in summer," he continues after a short interlude. "They carried missiles and tanks and many arms. They would cover them with some sheets, so you could only see some parts. It is better this way... if you saw everything it is not as exciting. You can only see rocket there, side of tank."
"Usually when I hear people talking about that kind of thing, they're talking about a woman," I interject.
"Ah yes, yes, woman, I was talking about woman."
"OoOoOohh, look at those tanks."
He says that the weapons were bound for the Chechen war. He says that it was a strange war because it was a war where Russians were fighting Russians. He said that he once saw a BBC broadcast about it and every detail was the opposite of what he had seen broadcast on Russian TV. Who shot first, who refused to compromise, who was winning, who was bullying whom. Even if the journalists had the same facts they came to completely different conclusions.
There is a loud crash and raucous laughter from the drunk Frenchmen.
"What is this?" says Viktor the Siberian. "Here America and Russia are talking peacefully together-- about guns and wars-- and France is crazy."
Monday. 3.25.13 5:34 pm
It's 10:30 pm and I'm in my office listening to John Philip Sousa marches while trying to load global maps of Mercury on ArcMap.
My future is uncertain. NASA funding is in quite a state.
Hawaii hasn't said yes, no, or maybe.
My boss here says that I could stay a couple extra months if I wanted to. Or a year, heck, I could stay another year, he says, God bless him, if he could find some cash lying around. Which he is pretty good at finding.
My buddy at JPL says I could come for a few months to California. We could collab. I made that abbreviation up just now. A little bit of surfing. A little bit of hanging out with "film-makers" that she apparently knows.
Maybe I could get a post-doc in Padua, Italy....
Heck, I'm so free right now, I ain't got nothing to tie me down. I could move to Japan! I could move to Antarctica! South Africa! Peru! Norway! Australia! Tahiti! Why can't I just write grants and live in Tahiti?????
Well, there is the whole "only 1-in-10 grants gets funded" thing going on right now. The whole "we spend more than 80% of our time just writing grants, less than 20% doing science" thing. Those kinds of statistics make one a bit wary of joining a soft-money, grant-supported institution, even if it does give you the flexibility to live in Tahiti. Those kinds of statistics make you wonder if now is the right time to be moving back to the USA.
Hence the fact that I switched music:
Wednesday. 3.20.13 3:43 pm
So they haven't emailed me to say that I've made it through the first rounds of cuts for the Hawaiian job.
But they haven't emailed me saying that I haven't made it [an email that my friend got].... so.... I'm going to take that as a "maybe".
In other news my friend says that I'm on his "shortlist" for a return trip to Antarctica.... so...................... we'll see how that goes.
To Chaos We Shall Return
Monday. 3.18.13 12:49 am
According to the religious Taoists, the world began with chaos. Two gods on either side of the chaos decided that it was a shame that the chaos did not have eyes or ears or other senses and could therefore not sense the world around it. So they cut eyes and ears and a mouth into the chaos, and for the first time, chaos was aware of the world. Immediately upon perceiving, the chaos split into two halves, yin and yang, good and evil. The story follows that of Adam and Eve in a way. With knowledge came good and evil, and once it was known, it could not be unknown. Instead of living in blissfully ignorant paradise, where the concepts of good and evil are unknown, you live in a place where they are intertwined, and, as shown by the yin-yang, all evil has inside of it a little piece of good and all good has inside of it a little piece of evil.
We were at lunch. With Tex sitting next to the Canadian and I and the Chinese doctoral student He Chang across the table, we had slipped into English.
“I have been thinking about this lately,” she said, pausing thoughtfully. “Think about a car crash. You have so much kinetic energy, and it is transformed through the car crash into different kinds of kinetic energy, to bend the metal and break the glass, and a huge amount of thermal energy, which dissipates. The whole universe is like that—kinetic and potential energy is always transforming into thermal energy, until someday all of it will be thermal energy and that will be the only kind of energy that exists.”
“Yes,” I said, “the eventual heat death of the universe. I guess from the beginning we came from chaos and at the end to chaos we will return.”
“You think too much,” said Tex. People say that to the Canadian and I all the time.
Sunday. 3.17.13 12:55 am
When I look down at the sea from a plane, I can sometimes see little spots of white among the deep navy blue of the North Atlantic. They are probably white-caps on a ever-changing ocean, but I like to pretend that they are whales. Look how many whales are down there in that sea, I say to myself, whales of all types and sizes, what a marvel of nature!
Saturday. 3.16.13 12:31 am
I walked into my bathroom. There was a large black spider perched on a web that had been built between the toilet brush and the wall. The spider had been there, more or less, for six months. In a moment of clement feelings, I had spared its life, and then when it continued to live there, I felt that I could not revoke my clemency. I named the spider Pierre, despite the fact that it was probably a female. He had become my de facto pet, and I spoke French to him so that I could practice my accent out loud. I hadn’t spoken to him lately, though, as our conversations recently always seemed to end in arguments. I always asked him what he had accomplished while I was at work; he thought this question was a loaded question, and that I was judging him for staying home all day, I claimed that I was just curious what it was that he did all day, he claimed that he had been busy all day hunting, I asked what more there was to hunting than lying in wait on one’s web… you can see how this might go. We had implicit agreement that I would not kill him as long as he stayed generally in the area of his web and didn’t make any sudden movements.
I used to have another spider pet, in college. This spider also had a general web behind the toilet in the bathroom. Unlike Pierre, this spider was dead, and had been dead for as long as I had known of its presence behind the toilet. I didn’t clean up the spider’s body, though. Instead I would sit on the toilet and ponder the meaning of mortality. With Pierre around I spent less time pondering mortality and more time on guard against any sudden movements. Predictable as Pierre was, living spiders are always inherently more unpredictable than dead ones. I talked to Pierre about it once. He thought that it was a little morbid to keep a dead spider in a web behind your toilet. He asked me if I was asking him his opinion about this because I felt like this sort of thing lay in his future. Of course my answer was no, but I think that our relationship wasn’t really the same after that.
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