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. 9.1.12 1:05 pm
Ehhhhh, so I was just on the metro and there was a well-dressed middle-aged woman walking through the car crying "I'm hungry! I'm hungry! I'm hungry!" She asked everyone if they had a restaurant ticket or some money or whatever. People do this all the time but this time it was weird because she seemed like she was practically in tears. I couldn't see her through the crowd. I got off the metro and she got off, too. She knelt down at the very edge of the quay as the train started speeding off, her head inches from the train. Everyone who had gotten off looked back at her but nobody stopped. I usually don't approach people because I feel like I can't speak french well enough, but this time I figured I'd better do something.
I came up and said, "Is everything ok, Madame?" She didn't look at me. "I'm hungry. I'm hungry. I haven't eaten in days," she said. I moved her gently back from the edge of the platform. A couple who had been moving towards the exit came back and joined us. They asked her if everything was ok, and she said that she had horrible kids and a horrible life and she hadn't eaten in days and she just wanted a sandwich. We moved her back to the platform seats and I gave her my last five bucks. I told her gently that now she could buy herself a sandwich and maybe she would feel better once she ate. The man only had fifty cents, and the woman didn't have anything besides twenties and little bits of change, so she shrugged helplessly. The woman asked if we had anything more but that was it. She angrily turned away. We started to walk away and she called out "Thank you" after us.
As we walked up the stairs, the three of us shared the hope that she wasn't going to throw herself in front of the next train.
alllghgghghhhh should I have done more? I probably should have taken her for a sandwich and some coffee and listened to her story, you know? I wish I spoke french better.... :C.... as it is I have no idea where she could go for help. I'm always imagining rescuing someone in the metro from an oncoming train... maybe I missed my opportunity. :C
There's a seat here alongside me
Tuesday. 8.28.12 5:38 pm
Working out like Whoa
Sunday. 8.26.12 4:55 pm
Today I met some of my parkour buddies for a "real world" training session. Usually we do everything in the gym so we don't kill ourselves, but this time we went to Chinatown to jump around on some real obstacles. The chinese thought that we were very interesting. Our leader, Prince, is pretty good. He single-handedly increased my standing long jump by about a foot with just one piece of advice. [I wish I'd had that piece of advice when I was doing long jump in college!]. Most of the training was just muscle-building stuff, but we did it in fun ways, like balancing on and jumping over rails and climbing walls. After a couple of hours my quads were jelly. Then we ate at McDonald's and everyone talked about how fat Americans are. I had brought my lunch from a sandwich place, so I just watched them eat large amounts of food and listened. One of my friends said that in America you have infinite refills so most people probably just save their McDonald's cup and take it with them to McDonald's so that they can serve themselves. I was all like, "Woah, man, Americans may be fat but they are not dishonest!" Plus, seriously, what American could keep track of a McDonald's cup long enough to reuse it? We throw that shit away, moran! But seriously, french people are way more dishonest about little things like that than Americans are. This is probably the real reason why endlessly refillable drinks hasn't caught on here.
Sorry, I seem to be hard on french people sometimes. They're actually pretty great. The rest of the time we talked about our favorite Hollywood couples and how sad it was that Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis and Will and Jada broke up and how awesome it was that we landed a probe on Mars. And how often they each defraud the metro system. And parkour, of course.
Anyway, by this time I couldn't even stand on my legs, so I went and played four hours of soccer.
Now I am lying on my floor totally pumped from all my working out but unable to stand up to make any dinner. It is 11 pm by now so maybe I'll just skip it. But I'm so hungry. Can someone make me some spaghetti please? Oh what? I live alone? Oh yeah. Merde.
EDIT: Will and Jada are still together, I checked The Internet. Rumors were circulating, but W & J say that they don't have a bit of truth. Praise the Lord.
Madonna and the masculinist boots
Saturday. 8.18.12 12:44 pm
OH IT IS SO HOT. OH IT IS SO HOT.
I am dripping sweat. DRIPPING. It is testament to my low sweat production/ living most of my life in dry climates/ ubiquity of air conditioning that I have dripped sweat probably less than five times in my life, even while exercising.
Last night MP and I went to a movie. It was probably the weirdest movie-going experience I've ever had. It took place in an outdoor club on the edge of the Seine. The bottom level of the club was a parking lot with construction equipment in it. We weren't allowed to go down there. Some dude was spinning techno, but weird, boring techno that it was impossible to dance to. Everyone there was at least 10 times as chic as I was, but the security guard let me in anyway. An hour and a half after the movie was supposed to start, they made us get headphones. Two film nerds stood in the middle of a throng of drinking and dancing Parisian bobos (bourgeois-bohemians), explaining the use of masculinist bedazzled boots to achieve a social commentary in the film starring Madonna that we were about to see. They went on for fifteen minutes, but you could only hear them through the headphones. MP rolled his eyes and ripped his headphones off, listened to the techno music for a few seconds and then put his headphones back on. The movie started, projected from a spindly spider-web of green plexiglass onto a concrete wall. We and about five other people watched the movie, while everyone else smoked and drank and danced and flirted and did pot. Which was interesting, because everyone in the movie was smoking and drinking and dancing and doing pot, so I felt the total immersion. The movie ended at 12:30 am and the second movie of the double header began, but we made like trees and got out of there.
Happy Summer DAY
Wednesday. 8.15.12 2:43 pm
Today is "Summer Day" or something... just a random holiday that French people get because it is the middle of August. I was feeling lazy but I knew I had to get out of the house. If I sleep all day I fall into a terrible hole and I become sleepy all the time, and my body grows sick and sluggish and I sleep all day every day. This is why I don't take naps--- any nap I take will stretch into six or seven hours of nap and then I still sleep nine or ten hours that night.
So I went to the Louvre and explored parts that I had never been. I saw the greyhound bus-sized paintings of every worthless detail of Catherine de Medicis' life. There was an exhibit of antique gold and silver clocks and pocket watches. I saw some Rembrandts. Sluggish. Still lifes with mounds of dead pheasants and rabbits. Grapes. Exhausted. I tried not to yawn in front of the museum guards, but I had to yawn at least once a minute.
They had a painting of a bunch of young boys skinny dipping in lake. They said that the painting was probably just anecdotal, but there were allegorical aspects of it, like a one boy holding onto a dead tree, which was clearly illustrating the fragility of existence build on uncertain foundations, and one boy who had just fallen on his ass out of the boat, which clearly symbolized the dangers of putting too much faith in knowledge and neglecting outside aid. Clearly. Next thing you know, art critics will be saying that putting a cat in the upper corner of a painting symbolizes God.
Hmmmm.... maybe back in the time before memes people had to spread their inside jokes using symbolism....
I spent a while online researching places where I could restart my long-delayed career in gymnastics.... they exist but I would be surrounded by 8-year-old girls. I did find a place that just lets you come twice a week and jump on their trampolines--- SOLD! Being able to find every crazy activity you could dream of is probably my favorite part about living in the big city.
All of this looking up athletics on the internet inspired me to actually do some athletics, so I traveled out to a faraway park to do some jump-roping and break-dance moves. No sooner had I stretched and done 100 jumps, the soccer ball from a nearby group of soccer players came my way and I kicked it back. I decided that if they asked me if I wanted to play, I would say yes. The next time the ball came over to me, they asked me if I wanted to play. After learning I was American, they congratulated me on winning the Olympic Games. On behalf of all of America, thanked them and took full personal credit for every medal. (Embarrassingly I hadn't even been paying attention and I thought China had won the medal count). Then I beat alltheyall's asses because that's how I do. Then they invited me to play on their team in their all-girls soccer league that is starting in September. What?! So instead of a lonely day at the park I got a bunch of new friends and a soccer league! I was super-psyched to tell SharkBoy, because he loves soccer, but then I remembered that he dumped my ass. NO MATTER! Because come September I am going to be a parkouring, trampolining, soccer-playing maniac, hanging out with jinyu and representing for the U. S. A.
Girl: Where are you from?
Me: The USA
Girl: I totally guessed that. They teach you guys to play soccer from birth or something.
Adventures in Bureaucracy
Tuesday. 8.14.12 11:04 am
Having been turned away in a most cold and unfriendly manner from the last french health services office that I visited, I was understandably wary as I attempted my second approach.
The man at the door of the last health services office had asked me my business, affirmed that I was in the right place, and given me a ticket. I sat in the waiting room for about 40 minutes. During this time a hassled woman appeared one number after her number was called. They turned her away, even though she explained that she had had to run out to make photocopies (there was no available photocopier in the building). I was finally called to a window, where I explained my situation to the a woman. She looked through my papers and fell eventually upon my birth certificate. She said that it was not acceptable. "NEXT!" I quickly showed her that an official translation of the certificate was stapled onto the back. Affronted, she gave a cursory glance to the translation.
"No," she said immediately, "This is not acceptable." I pointed out that it was an official translation, complete with a stamp. "No," she said, casting her eye around the page. "See here? Where it says, 'name'? It does not say 'first name' or 'last name'. How are we supposed to have any idea which name is which? She read out my family and Christian names like they were the most unintelligible words ever written on a piece of paper, despite the fact that they are fairly common names, even in France, and they are designated as first and last names on the other seven pieces of justification that I was required to give her. She said that it wasn't she who was rejecting it, she was just rejecting it because she knew that the people a level above her would reject it. "NEXT!"
I explained to her that I paid 60 euros for the translation to be done by an official, government-approved translator, and that it had been acceptable to the people who had made out my residency card, the most official and difficult-to-obtain document in French immigration, which itself had required perhaps twelve pieces of justification. She was unmoved. I asked if I could just write "first name" and "last name" on the translation to help her superiors identify which was which. She was affronted, even though in my tone and word choice I did everything possible to remain earnest and humble and conciliatory. She shuffled my papers together. "You don't even have the FORM," she said suddenly, and a form that I had never heard of materialized beneath her fingertips. "You came here without even filling out this form." Ah yes, now I was sloppy, me with my carefully prepared folder with exactly the right number of duplicates, staples, and supplementary forms.
"Besides," she added, "you are at the wrong office. When you finally get all of your appropriate paperwork together, you have to send it by registered mail to an address. NEXT!"
She didn't give me the address. It was probably the same one as the one on the outside of the building. I supposed that it was normal protocol to verify multiple times that I was in the right office and to carefully look through my paperwork only to announce that I was in the wrong office after all. I wanted to fight with her, but I was already visibly near tears, so I shoved all of my papers back into my bag and left the building. I felt keen sympathy for whoever in the queue of hopeful immigrants had to follow me to her desk. I second-guessed myself--- I like to think that when things don't work out it is because I misunderstood or mishandled the situation rather than because the other person was unreasonable.
But I remembered the advice of countless foreigners who had come before: if you are turned down by one agent of the french government, come back another day and try your luck with another.
This time I went to a health services office across town. The man at the door verified my intentions and gave me a number. Within five minutes I was talking to an agent at the counter, a friendly black girl. Not to generalize, but while french black people are culturally similar to french white people in almost every way, french black women tend to be about an order of magnitude lower on the "uppity bitch" scale. She looked through my paperwork and complimented me on how orderly it was and how many copies of things that I had. She made some copies using the copier in the back when it looked like I only had originals. She even added some of her own staples.
"That should do it," she said after about two minutes. I stood agape.
"This is unrelated," she continued, "But since you are American, can I ask you how hard it is to get a visa to work in America?"
I fumbled... one thing I've learned is that citizens of a country know almost nothing about their own immigration processes. I tried to remember the experiences of my friends. I explained what I knew, that it was hard to get a visa unless you already had a job lined up, that it was easier to get a student visa, but that the student visa was expensive and didn't always allow you (or your spouse) to work. She asked me if it was true that our health care was crazy expensive, and I fumbled through the answer to that, too. The short answer was yes.
She told me to have a nice day. I stumbled out of the building, in awe of how easy it was, in awe of what a heinous, arbitrary, mean-spirited harpy the other lady had been, in awe that those sorts of bureaucrats are so common in this government that foreigners passed down handbooks about them.
I, too, had encountered the mythical beast, the french bureaucrat. I, too, had survived.
Sunday. 8.12.12 2:17 pm
I've had a lot on my mind lately. I've been distracted. Living through one of those hazes where your mind's eye is sitting quietly back in the darkness several meters behind your real eyes, refusing to be present in the here and now.
I've been reading the Tao Te Ching, finally. Learning about the Tao and The Way. It's pretty weird how similar the Tao is to the teachings of Jesus in places. In order to lead you must follow, in order to be great you must be lowly, to be whole, you must be broken. The only way that the Tao can be defined is in terms of itself... that is, the The Way is itself. I am what I am.
"All that you grasp will be thrown away. All you hoard will be utterly lost"
"Whatever you lose, you've won,
Whatever you win, you've lost."
"To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear."
"Why was the Way honored
in the old days?
Wasn't it said:
Seek, you'll find it.
Hide, it will shelter you.
So it was honored under heaven."
"Treat the small as large,
the few as many.
with the power of goodness"
I always thought it was kind of unfair that the Israelites should get Jesus but the rest of the world just has to figure it out somehow on their own. Maybe God did send Prophets everywhere, just cloaked in the language and metaphors of the target audience.
And of course I've been thinking about the usual stuff: the ideal government, the ideal tax system, the ideal health system, the absurdity of war, the speech that I would give if I could address all of the American people, etc etc etc. I might have to use this blog to sort some of these things out in my head.
I have an Indian friend who is going home to get married, his marriage is arranged but he was like, "Don't worry, we've totally met once before. It isn't like in Northern India where only the parents get to choose, they let us meet and then we have to agree to it of course." He was making it sound like his version of the arranged marriage was so very free and modern, but it still sounded very weird to us. He said that he told his bride that he expected GOOD FOOD, and she responded that she was a good cook. "We'll see," he said.
I started to wonder how hard that would be to marry pretty much a perfect stranger. Then again, your expectations would be SooOOO much lower, it might not actually be that bad. You'd spend most of your time hanging out with your girlfriends and relatives, he would do the same, he'd know what roles he was expected to fulfill, you'd know what roles you were expected to fulfill... neither of you would be expected to fulfill every need of the your partner... you wouldn't have to be lovers and soul-mates and best friends and business colleagues and disciplinarians and golf partners and everything else, like I think we sometimes expect our spouses to be. ......still.
Shark Fin Soup
Saturday. 8.11.12 12:47 pm
J: "So what about this job at NASA?"
Z: "I'm probably going to take it."
J: "And what did your boyfriend say?"
Z: "Uh, we broke up."
MP: "FINALLY! Now you can eat all of the shark fin soup you want!"
Thanks, co-workers, for your support.
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