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 ŕ 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
The Rising Tide
Saturday. 11.3.12 4:32 am
We were in the beach house when we heard the shouting. I opened the side door and stepped out onto the little spit of sand that connected our door mat to the beach. The water was coming in. Much faster than any tide. People with barbecues and beach umbrellas and little children were running up the beach.
"Oh shit," I called back into the condo, "It's a tsunami." My mother looked up from where she was sorting kitchen items behind the counter. "Oh shit," she said. She came to the door and we both looked out at the beach as the water continued to rise. The people with picnics and barbecues reached our door and asked us to let them in. We did, and in their rush they spilled grilled onions and curry sauces on our white carpet. Mom was beginning to get unhappy. Through the glass door we could see that the water had reached about a foot in height. Still the thick rubber laid around the doorframe kept it out. The tide receded. I opened the door again and looked out at the beach. The light was so bright it was blinding me. My little sister jinyu came in from the beach. She had run up to the next highest level, but she had been outside. The whites of her eyes were badly burned. One of them had turned partially black. Mom was worried, but jinyu said she could't feel anything. For a moment I could see an arrangement of bizarre sea creatures, exposed by the retreat of the tide.
Within a couple of hours, people were back on the beach. We had dodged a bullet there, everyone agreed. The beach looked new and clean. My dad said he was going to go pick up a movie. My mom told him that he certainly wasn't as long as this apartment was in the state that it was in. He sighed heavily and came back to help her sort through the junk behind the counter. I went outside. I can't remember what I was going out to get, though I would try to remember many times, later. I was too far away from the house to go back when the water returned. I couldn't get into any house--- all I could do was run.
I ran blindly for high ground. All I could think of was to go up, up, up. I headed for the cliffs behind the beach. On this side of the cliffs was civilization, on the other side was the high desert. The sandy incline leading up to them was steep but I flew up it like I was running down a hill. I mounted the cliffs by an artificial staircase. At the top I paused and looked back. The scene was surreal. The bright sunshine shone down upon the glittering low-rise beach houses, and the sparkling blue water coursed between them and rose. Rose, rose, always it rose.
"Higher ground!" Somebody yelled. We watched with stupefied amazement as the water kept rising. Surely it couldn't reach us on the cliffs... surely... we started running. The cliffs petered out into sand dunes. My fear of heights was forgotten completely. It seemed like a relict fear, forced into complete obsolescence by my new, overwhelming fear of the rising tide: I could remember having it but it no longer meant anything. I helped some others across a precarious stone bridge and into the desert.
We saw the landscape differently now. Every feature was only important for its topographic relief. When we looked at the sand dunes we only saw troughs that would be filled with death, and tiny crests that could be bridges to life. The dunes were lower than the cliffs. We needed to get higher. Higher. Higher. The cliffs were buying us time. I was holding two girls by the hand and nearly pulling them through the sand. Suddenly I was face to face with my own older sister, Rachel. After that, nothing else was important, only Rachel. We clung to each other like morning glory vines and we ran.
Finally we came to a rise and a human installation. It was one of those strange, run-down desert places that had been built with great hope and then nearly abandoned to decay. It was supposed to be a fun-house, with rooms full of mirrors, a miniature golf course, a generous deck and a small snack bar. Heaped into the same installation were some large buildings filled with technical equipment and two giant radio towers. We descended upon it, a wave of humanity preceding the wave that was chasing us. "High ground!" we shouted at the people at the entry. "High ground!" I screamed at the people playing croquet. They looked at us like we were crazy. The only thing we could stop running long enough to say was "High ground! High ground! High ground!"
And then the wave breached the cliffs. It flowed spectacularly down into the desert, filling up and then wiping out the sand dunes; carrying off every tiny living creature that still ran upon their crests. The croquet players were listening now. Rachel and I ducked into the fun house. There was a staircase where the stairs moved in and out of the wall. I ran up it with frenzied energy but I tripped two thirds of the way up and slid all the way back to the bottom. The operator appeared to ask us to buy our ticket. "We need to get to high ground," I said. He pointed around the corner to an ordinary staircase, and we were gone.
We emerged on the deck. There were people trying to break into the radio towers, but they were locked. The radio towers, our salvation, and they were locked. We stood on the deck and watched the water coming in. It seeped over the croquet pitch, it crept into the fun house. How could it keep coming? The ocean must be empty! We didn't want to think about all of the precious people we had left at the beach. Anything could happen. Many of the people who were on the beaches in Thailand in 2004 survived the tsunami despite being washed miles out to sea. The water rose and rose. We ran across a metal bridge to some of the technical buildings. They were a maze of metal grates and panes of glass. We heard some voices shouting. They had found a boat. A boat! A boat in the desert! Nobody knew if it would float, but we all piled aboard anyway. The water was now flowing beneath the metal grated bridges. We waited.
And then I woke up. THE END.
Thursday. 10.25.12 5:46 pm
When I was a kid we had a lot of rabbits. We had a whole bunch of them, out in a shed in the side yard. Over the years we had a lot of different plans on how we could split up the task of feeding them, but little by little as the years went on, the task fell more and more to me.
Well, I guess I liked the rabbits. I guess I didn't mind going out in the dark or in the snow. And I guess there was always a part of me that worried that if I stopped feeding them in protest that one of them might die before somebody else would start doing it. I guess in that way I felt like the choice to feed them wasn't completely a free one.
At church on Tuesday night we were talking about gender roles. What were gender roles like in our countries of origin? How did they differ in France? Did we agree with the gender roles that our country assigned? We had some American girls, an American guy, a Pakistani guy, some French guys, and a Korean guy. The American girls (asian, white, filipina) went on for a while about how unbalanced things were in America, until the Pakistani guy told us about how things were in Pakistan. After that they all had to admit that things were pretty good in America. [For example, they were surprised to discover that a Pakistani woman does not get to decide how many children she wants to have. That choice is made without her input by her husband and his family.] I wasn't surprised at their kind of naive ideas about supposed inequality of women in America. I read all kinds of articles all of the time from women complaining about the fact that not many women hold high-powered CEO jobs, or that there is a huge leak in the "academic pipeline", meaning that a huge number of talented female graduate students never make it to the level of tenure-track professor. I went to a forum where a woman got up and passionately described how she had always dreamed of being a planetary scientist but she had to give up all of her dreams to follow her husband's job for the sake of her family. At the time I thought it might have been something she should have discussed with her husband ten years ago rather than right now in front of a huge audience of female planetary scientists. I guess I'd never really felt that kind of pressure. After all, I see myself as part of a new, privileged generation of liberated women. I have encountered no glass ceilings, no one telling me I wasn't good enough, and I'm allowed to walk freely around town without any male relatives in sight. In my mind, the fight was pretty much won. I had every choice and opportunity ahead of me, the Universe was at my disposal. After that, the decision of who should raise the kids and who should work at what job is up for negotiation in each individual case. In my case, I rather thought that I would like to stay home and take care of the kids, at least in their younger years--- didn't I have the prerogative to do that, too?
The guys at the church gathering were pretty forward-thinking. They didn't think that there should be any specific gender roles, either in the home or at church or in the office. They let us girls speak first and then just basically agreed with whatever we said.
"But honestly," said the Korean in french to the french guy, "if I had enough money, I'd like it if my wife was able to stay home."
"You should say that in English," said the french guy. And then he repeated it in English. We girls were perfectly neutral, and we asked him what he would do if his wife wanted to work outside of the home.
"Oh, she could do that too, if she wanted to. But personally, it would be nice, if it were financially feasible, for her to stay home."
The french guy laughed out loud and said, "Good luck finding a woman like that!"
But the other french/chinese guy agreed. The black guy from North Carolina also agreed. In principle it was fine for women to have jobs, but for each of them personally they would prefer it if their own wife stayed home.
"I mean, when I was growing up," said the North Carolinian, "The womenfolk did all of the housework and the cooking. So that's what I'm used to. But just because I'm a man don't mean I can't pick up a dish every once in a while."
They agreed that if she really wanted to have a job, well then, she could do that, too. We asked them if they would ever consider staying home with the kids, and they said that they thought that it was fine in the abstract, but they would never personally do it, and they wouldn't really respect a man who did.
I started to think about me and all my friends in the 'leaky academic pipeline'. I mean, those friends of mine, they're getting to the point where they're starting to talk about kids. You know, quietly, conspiratorially, out of the earshot of the menfolk. "I just don't want to put off having kids so long that I wake up one day and I've run out of time," they say. If they're dating a guy who is about their same age he feels very little of the same biological pressures. But they work full time! They're supposed to be applying to jobs! They're supposed to be getting tenure! Instead they have a never-ending progression of short-term assignments with no real stability and even less money. But these women, these women who have been told all of their lives that they are smart and ambitious and that they should become scientists and professors and engineers and lawyers and high-powered CEOs, this new generation of women upon whom the 70s-era feminists have pinned all of their unrealized dreams..... I think these women are finding themselves fishing from a pool of potential partners who support them in the abstract, but who personally think that it might be nice if their own wife were to stay home. If it were financially feasible. Or, among the academic crowd, those who personally think that both members of the couple should work. But for the women this means that they're finding themselves choosing between staying home and raising the kids, or having nobody stay home to raise the kids, leaving the day-cares and the after-school programs and the kids to raise themselves. Or maybe settling for a reality without kids at all.
I guess I could start to understand that woman at the planetary science forum who felt that she'd spent 27 years of her life preparing for something, that she'd finally been offered the whole Universe on a platter and given free rein to choose any or all of it---- only to find out that the choice was an illusion, that she couldn't actually have it all, and that she could make any choice she wanted as long as she chose to sacrifice everything.
I guess she found out that if she didn't feed the rabbits...
it meant that nobody would.
Multi-cultural Conversations Part II
Saturday. 10.20.12 12:59 pm
Zimbabwean Girl: Well I'm originally from Zimbabwe, and my dad's Zimbabwean, but my mom's from Zambia and I've lived most of my life in Namibia. I've lived here for a few years but I think next year I might try to move to Canada.
Me: Do you like Namibia?
ZG: Eh. I like the country, I hate the people.
Us: Really? Why?
ZG: Well they used to have apartheid there, you know? And even though it is illegal now, well... it is still kind of there. People talk to you differently, you know?
Us: Uh... not really but yeah.
Me: I've always wanted to visit Namibia because of the beautiful sand dunes.
ZG: Yeah, we have amazing sand dunes. But watch out, because we also have like spiders the size of baseballs and desert lions.
French Girl: What is a desert lion?
ZG: How do you mean?
FG: Is it like a "lion of the desert"?
ZG: Uh, no, it's just a big giant lion that lives in the desert and eats people.
ZG: Yeah, you know like when you're a kid and you have to go on a school trip? They take you out and you have to camp in the desert for a few days and they teach you important things like how if you're being attacked by a lion or a leopard or a cheetah how you have to put your arm in front of your neck like this so when the lion goes for your throat it'll get your elbow instead, and you can run away.
American Guy: Um, I don't think I could outrun a cheetah anyway....
ZG: Well they can only run really fast for a short time.
AG: I think in that time they would definitely still catch me.
ZG: Yeah, well, I'm scared to death of desert lions, that's one bad thing about living in Namibia that you have to deal with.
Nigerian Guy: Do you want to know the difference between American horror films and Nigerian horror films?
NG: In an American horror film the guy is always like, "Oh, what is that sound? I should go check it out. In an Nigerian horror film the guy would be like, 'What the hell is that sound!' and then he would RUN AWAY. And he would run really fast and shout out 'God help me!'"
Us: Ahhhhh. Smart Nigerians.
NG: But you shouldn't think that Nigerians aren't brave. In fact, Nigerians are very strong people. Nigerians never commit suicide, for example, because they know that they can make it through anything. Nigeria is a really funny country, actually, a lot of really funny things happen there.
Me: What kind of funny things?
NG: Well I'll give you an example. Every third Saturday is Sanitation Day, right? Nobody is allowed to take out their cars or go anywhere before 10 am because we all have to clean everything and take out the trash to the local dumpster. But the police are often watching because they are trying to catch people sneaking their cars out early or going to the bus stop or something. So I was helping my neighbor take out his trash and we saw a big bus. I was suspicious of the bus because it was painted in colors that were different from normal city buses. I don't know why I got this feeling, but I got a really bad feeling and I took off running. My neighbor took off running too after he saw me start to run. And it turned out it was a police bus. The police are always arresting you for not having the right paper or being on the wrong side of the street, or... how to say it?
Me: Um, for silly reasons?
NG: Yes, that is a good way to say it, for silly reasons. Then they take you to jail and someone must come and bail you out and you pay a fine. So the bus was already full of people that they had caught, and I was thinking only one thing in my head: He must not catch me. And I ran so fast, I did not know that I could run like that. And the policeman could not catch me, I outran him. But he decided that if he could not catch me, at least he could catch my neighbor. So he tried to catch him. But you see in Nigeria all of the people they stick together, and when they see something that is not supposed to be happening, they come out and if there are enough of them they can stop it. So they all came out of their houses and looked at the police officer and that is how my neighbor was rescued that time. Yeah, so all Nigerians have funny stories like that so when we get together we all talk about it and it is very funny. You would have to go there yourself and experience it to really know.
This morning I went out to find a vintage store. I looked around the vintage store for a while and found a belt with a buckle that said "Colorado" and on the back "Colorado is a state full of beauty. From the plains to the mountain tops, Colorado really represents the best that America can offer". I really wanted to buy it but the belt was a little small. Instead I bought a CD from some random musicians in the metro who were playing amazing Russian and Ukrainian folk music. In the afternoon I went to the church and we went out with a bunch of sandwiches that we'd made to give them to homeless people. Since it was raining the homeless people had all evaporated, so it took hours and hours to hand out all the sandwiches and we walked all over Paris. We met a lot of cool people, though, including a Romanian guy with six kids, a french guy who claimed that he had served in the army valiantly fighting against the English [....?], and a really nice Austrian woman who had been on the street for a month. We had a German guy with us so he spoke to her in German. All of the homeless people were really grateful for the sandwiches and more to the point, grateful that we stopped to chat with them. It was really nice to be walking around actively seeking out homeless people rather than trying to avoid them. I think maybe I'll buy a bunch of food and just carry it around with me from now on so that I'll have something to give.
Friday. 10.19.12 5:30 am
Me: Where are you from?
Algerian Girl: I'm from Algeria.
Me: And you?
Guadeloupean Girl: I'm from Guadeloupe
Me: Oh, I always wanted to visit Guadeloupe. I read about it in a book, "La Papillon dans la Cité"
GG: Oh, I have read that book as well!
AG: So we are all foreigners here, aren't we? Isn't it funny how we naturally separate ourselves from the french?
Me: Well Guadeloupe is technically a part of France, isn't it?
GG: Oh yes, we are part of the Outre-Mer [overseas territories]
AG: How long has Guadeloupe been a part of France?
GG: Since ages ago, maybe the 1600s.
AG: The French were in Algeria since the 1800s. We finally kicked them out but they didn't want to leave, did they? No they sure dragged their feet leaving! The French are such bastards!!!!
Several weeks later....
AG: So, do people in the United States ever talk about Algeria?
Me: Um... well.... eh....... not really.
AG: [disappointed] Oh. I thought maybe that was the case.
Me: Well, they've been talking about Algeria more lately.
AG: REALLY!?!? Why?
Me: Well, um, I guess ever since the protests across Northern Africa and the Middle East, they've been talking about Libya and Algeria and Tunisia more... mostly Libya though. Yeah.
[I didn't want to tell her that the only reason I knew about Algeria as a kid was because I wanted to be like Jean-Claude Van Damme and join the French Foreign Legion..... looking back I guess I totally missed the point of Lionheart]
Egyptian Guy: Arabs are ridiculous, seriously.
American Guy: But you're not an Arab?
EG: NO! I speak Coptic. Well, I speak Arabic, too, but I'm not an Arab, I'm Egyptian. Let me tell you about Arabs: You know how when you hear Chinese people talking to each other, you always think they are fighting? But then it turns out that they aren't fighting, they're just having a conversation and it's just their language that makes them sound like that? Or you know when South American people, they have a big fight and yell at each other and then they love each other again in the next minute? Yeah, Arabs don't do that. If you hear two Arabs yelling at each other, they really hate each other, down to the very core.
Me: Are they like, "I curse you and your family for five generations!"
EG: Wait a minute, do you know lots of Arabic people?
EG: Then how did you know that they do that?
Me: I was just guessing...
EG: Because that is exactly what they DO! They curse you and your family for five generations! And let me tell you, Arabs never think about anything with depth. It is always on the surface with them.
Me: But what about all of the Arabic mathematicians and philosophers....?
EG: THEY WERE NOT ARABIC! Everyone just says that everyone that lives in the Middle East are Arabs but they're NOT! The Arabs were just barbarians that took everyone over, and inherited all of their technology and philosophy from the civilizations they conquered! They got their medicine from Egypt, their mathematics from the Persians... everything else from the Berbers and the Spanish!
AG: Ok, well, you can say that, but I'm not allowed to say that.
EG: Yes, yes, you're not allowed to say that, that's true. But I can say that! I speak Coptic! The Arabs don't let us speak it, they want us to only speak Arabic! The Arabs have nothing. The Qur'an has nothing philosophically profound in it at all.
AG: Can I quote you on that?
EG: QUOTE ME ALL YOU WANT!
Thursday. 10.18.12 4:25 pm
I have been going to church and studying the philosophy of forgiveness. I have been reading the Tao and studying the ways of inner stillness.
BUT THE AMOUNT OF UTTER BULLSHIT SPILLING OUT OF EVERY CORNER OF THE INTERNET ABOUT THE 2012 ELECTION IS KILLING ME! I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!
I just read the worst, most disgusting, sniveling piece of shit article I have ever read, ever. Ever. I mean... ever. And I can't even comment that on the person's wall who posted it because he's just a random guy and I don't know him that well and it would serve absolutely no purpose to antagonize him because I have nothing against him personally and there is a zero percent chance that I would change his mind about anything. The worst part of all of it is that I know that a large majority of my friends would read this article and say to themselves, "Yes, yes, this explains everything."
I'm sorry, I apologize, I'm still dizzy from all of the spin that was in that article.
I've discovered that people in the US, upset that they can't find anything really hateworthy about their political opponents, have decided to make up random shit up about them and then hate them for THAT. What is the PURPOSE of that?
In other news, I get to go to Münster, London, and Venice for free! I mean, for work. I'm so busy making travel plans I can barely research science! Ok, that's not true, I'm at work at 11 pm on a Thursday, and there *was* a 70/30 work:getting-mad-at-politics ratio. I'm going to have to go home and zen out or watch the Disney channel or something. ::breathing exercises::
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Friday. 10.12.12 12:17 pm
My Canadian and I decided to have PB&J for lunch. I had all of the ingredients, so we went to the break-room and started assembling it. The french secretaries were AMAZED and DELIGHTED. Apparently they had heard of the "mystical" habit of Americans eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but they had never seen a REAL AMERICAN in the process of ACTUALLY EATING ONE in PERSON before. We asked if they wanted to try some, but it was too weird for them. One of them tried a bite of peanut butter. "Oh wow," she said, "that's quite good!"
Yeah. I know.
Busy Busy Busy
Saturday. 10.6.12 2:16 am
I've been gone for the last three weekends, and I'm taking off again. Interesting for me, not so great for my fantasy football team.... Well this weekend I'm going to the french countryside to eat lots of food, spa myself in a hammam, and dance the night away. It is my friend's birthday so I guess I better go buy her a present. Chocolate store, here I come!
Wednesday. 9.12.12 12:16 pm
French1: Well I believe that some studies have shown that Alzheimer's is more common among populations who have lower levels of brain activity. That is why it is more commonly found in America, because they use their brains less than everyone else.
The Canadian: What?
French 1: Well, look at the TV there, and you can see.
MP (to me): Did you hear what she just said about Americans? Are you going to take that?
Me: Oh whatever, that's just French1, she says all kinds of things against America.
MP: Yeah, well, she thinks that the french people are the best people in the world. Though to be fair, looking at me, one can understand how she might think that.
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