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
Sunday. 1.1.12 8:48 am
Quantum Paths Untaken
Monday. 12.5.11 12:32 pm
Now that I know how extremely cool quantum mechanics is, I regret that I never became a quantum physicist. If I had read this book on the quantum brain in high school, I probably would have become one. But naturally if I had read this book on the quantum brain in high school, I wouldn't have understood it, and therefore I wouldn't have become a quantum physicist [what a conundrum!].
I guess I can blame my college introductory physics professor, who was an expert in relativity. He made relativity seem very cool indeed, and I was so inspired by his descriptions of it that I calculated how much less I would age than my classmates who didn't go home for Thanksgiving, taking into account my speed and the length of my trip and so on (it was like 5.11 x 10^-26 seconds or something). When it came to quantum mechanics, however, our textbook showed a series of "quantum machines" where a photon would go in the entrance to the machine and come out of one of the two exits. The exit that the photon came out of was random, but in aggregate the number of photons that came out of each exit had a particular statistical distribution.
What did I just say? Statistical Distribution? I can't think of anything less interesting than a tiny particle that you can't see going into a black box and then coming out in a way that was described by a STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION. Gag. Every bit of quantum mechanics annoyed the shit out of my 19-year-old scientist attitude towards life.
1) First there was the black box, the "quantum machine". In the book it was drawn like a little combustion engine or widget-maker banged out of metal with steam coming out the top. What the hell is that supposed to be? I felt like there was something I wasn't being told, that my professor was keeping the secrets of physics to himself and not revealing them to us because he thought that we were too stupid to understand them. Black boxes seemed to be the anti-science. Why were there 20 of them in my text book?
2) Secondly there was the statistical distribution. I've always hated statistical distributions. This could be because I never really took a decent stats class, so statistical distributions were like Reimann sums... each year your teacher takes 15 minutes out of one class period to describe them, but you never really figure out what they're talking about. When I finally did understand statistical distributions and Reimann sums, they had already earned a reputation for being annoying. But real reason I've always hated statistical distributions is because they are a giant stark reminder of a bunch of things that we don't know! If we knew everything perfectly, the flap of a butterfly's wing in Texas, the movements of tiny molecules as they get heated up and interact with each other, etc., then there would be no statistical distributions. Statistical distributions said to me, "We are too lazy/lack the computing capacity to model everything we need, so we're making broad parameterizations of the Unknown in the form of statistical distributions." [I've learned since then how useful and time-saving this is, and how it is useless to waste time modeling things which can be handily summed up in a statistical distributions, but at the time I thought of statistics as a tool that politicians used to fool people into thinking anything that they liked.]
3) Thirdly I had mono during the quantum mechanics and thermodynamics sections of introductory physics. I didn't realize it at the time, all I knew was that I was so sick that I didn't move from my room for a week or more. I must be fair and admit that the mono may have had an effect on the way I viewed quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and anything else that required statistics.
Had my professor explained that the reason there was a "black box" instead of a mechanical process for how quantum particles traveled from point A to point B was because there IS no mechanical process... had he explained that far from traveling a specific trajectory that the particle traveled EVERY possible trajectory simultaneously.... had he bothered to mention that the "machine" in which the quantum particle was traveling was not only as large as the universe but extended in to multiple parallel universes... had he mentioned that quantum particles move but are not moved by anything in the physical universe... had he specified that while most statistics was just parameterizing of smaller, not-as-well-modeled mechanical interactions, while quantum uncertainty was TRULY RANDOM... had he explained that by creating an interference pattern with a couple of classroom lasers and some tiny slits that we were probing into the deep secrets of the matter and energy and the Universe ITSELF... had he told us that the little cartoonish machine in the textbook represented a giant frontier of mathematics, physics, neuroscience, humanity, and GOD, then maybe I would have paid a little bit better attention. Then again... what if he DID say those things and I WASN'T paying attention!? What if I was flat on my stomach in my dark bedroom lying on a pile of clothes shivering and feverish and hoping that I would die?
It may be ironic that due to small random quantum movements in my cells and those around me being amplified by my brain and forming my thoughts did I reject quantum mechanics before really knowing what it was.
I considered being a physics major. I didn't want to take Particle Physics, which was the next required course. I didn't like the idea of studying tiny little things that you couldn't see ricocheting off of other tiny things in a dark and sterile laboratory. Lasers were cool, on the other hand, as were lenses. I liked my physics to be on the macro scale. I liked building circuits, but I hated analyzing them. Electric fields bored the crap out of me. I didn't like angular momentum. Rotating coordinate systems were the banes of my existence. I liked being outside. I enjoyed tromping around the desert in the sunshine. I liked clambering up boulders and smashing things with a hammer. When I studied the planets I could get a handle on our corner of the universe and I could still have a heavy, solid object in my hand which I could saw apart without feeling bad and which looked pretty under a common laboratory microscope. I could think about things at the scale of the Universe and the Beginning of Time while still being able to tell people where they should build their houses, why their crops were failing, and how deep they were going to have to dig their wells. I became a geology major and made money on the side as an undergraduate physics TA.
I don't regret my choice... geology rocks.
And after all, I'm talking like my life is already over here! As long as I'm alive I can still do whatever the hell I want!
I could become a quantum physicist. I could found the field of "quantum geology". I could create a french salon and invite important and witty people to sit around drinking wine and discussing the philosophical ramifications of quantum theory. I went to a talk one time about Hilbert Spaces, and I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about. But I could go back and figure that out if I wanted to.
So I say to you:
AS LONG AS YOU'RE ALIVE YOU CAN STILL DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT!
Don't you see how important it is to know that? Don't you see that no matter what things are like right now there are an infinite number of superposed possibilities for things to get better? Don't you see that even if you feel like your hands are tied by money and family obligations and your supposedly limited skill-set that there is actually an ENTIRE UNIVERSE out there and you live on a giant spherical paradise exploding with life and opportunities????
In the end, YOU decide what you are going to contribute to the world. You decide to think great thoughts. You decide to write moving stories, moving songs, moving poems. You decide to keep trying to understand even when it takes you five times as long as anyone else in your class. You decide to apply yourself to something more profound than what you are going to eat for dinner. Do you think Einstein thought of general relativity because he sat around watching TV all day? NO! [Because TV didn't exist back then!] He sat around doing equations just for the hell of it! It took Einstein TEN YEARS to go from special relatively to general relativity. He screwed up many many times. But unlike everybody else, he just kept going! Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Guess who said that? That's right--- Thomas EDISON, whose name also begins with an E!
Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. The point is that quantum physics is awesome, and that I am starting a salon filled with incredible, deep-thinking, universe-pondering, world-changing geniuses, and I'm calling it Nutang.
You are all invited.
Saturday. 12.3.11 6:32 pm
"I think I get it now: Americans speak English when they're being serious, and Spanish when they're joking!"
--Srog the Dane
French: What are other things that people say are 'so french', besides complaining all the time?
Me: Um... wearing scarves!
German: Yes, whenever we see a lady all dressed up with a scarf, we say, 'oh, she looks so French'
French, very confused: Well then what do the Americans wear, only turtlenecks?
Me: The cowboys were good, and the indians were clever.
French2: Do you mean to say that the indians were 'evil'?
Me: Isn't that what 'clever' means?
French2: No, it means that they are very smart, like geniuses.
Me: Aha! The cowboys were good, and the indians were diabolical!
French2: Very good!
Me: What do you have to do to get buried in the Pantheon?
French3: You have to do an incredible service to the nation of France.
Me: What if I just cremated myself and then brought my urn into the Pantheon and hid it somewhere inside?
French4: That would be an easier way of being buried in the Pantheon.
Me: Of course I would have to get someone else to do it, because I would necessarily be dead.
Prof: The word "épilation" means "waxing". ::she mimes waxing from various body parts:: Do you know where the word "épilation" comes from?
Student: mowing "the lawn" [la pelouse]?
Prof: Uh... ::turns red:: no.
Riding the Wave of Life
Tuesday. 11.29.11 9:14 am
I'm reading a fascinating book called "The Quantum Brain". It talks about everything we know about the function of the human brain, plus all of the ways in which man has tried to emulate it through the construction of artificial intelligence. The book is full of amazing things, and I think middaymoon would be totally into it. In fact, it is probably grâce à middaymoon that the title jumped out at me in the first place. I will write more about this book, but for now I wanted to share this totally creepy quote from it:
Bohr, for instance, remarked on how the ever-changing medium in which a wave is but a pattern is like the ever-changing matter in which life is a pattern too.
This is of course the Bohr, Niels Bohr, and he was talking about how when a wave passes through a medium (say-- water) it is actually the energy which is traveling forward while the water stays in the same place. If you could tag a molecule of water in the ocean, it would just go up and down as the wave passed, not forward. Sound waves cause the molecules of air to compress temporarily, and then when the energy has passed they go back to their regular density. The energy wave makes use of the miniscule local forces that the atoms of the material exert on each other in order to propagate.
It is super creepy therefore to think of Life as an energy which passes through us, animates us for a brief moment, and uses the local interactions between us as a means to propagate itself through time. No wonder self-propagation is such a strong instinct in living things....
The Curse of the Internet
Saturday. 11.12.11 8:00 am
Well now I have internet in my apartment. It still isn't the internet I paid for, but the company gave me a username and password to connect to their city-wide wifi. This means that instead of writing my novel, walking around Paris, or discovering the giant park on the edge of town that I've been meaning to visit....
I just hung out in my apartment watching Taylor Swift videos on YouTube!
Wednesday. 11.9.11 12:39 pm
Every young spider must choose a corner
Choose a corner in which to build her life
In which to build her life, her web, to take her chances
To take her chances that insects will come.
Maud was no different, she chose a corner
A dark corner, filled with debris
A debris-filled bathroom corner, behind a pipe
Taking her chances that insects would come.
But the web of Maud stayed empty
The carefully woven web of Maud that would catch anything
The web of Maud stayed empty
And the insects did not come.
The multi-eyed spider mind of Maud filled with doubt
About the corner, about the instincts
Which made her gamble on this corner
Despite the insects that did not come.
Yet Maud tended her web
Her perfect web that would catch anything
And Maud grew hungry
For insects that did not come.
A spider's web will do its hunting
Unless the bathroom walls are well-sealed
And the window is closed
And there are no insects there to come.
Maud did her own hunting
Ranging to distant corners, where her web might have been
She might have built her web in other corners
Where the insects might have come.
Somebody left the light on, accidentally
Somebody left the light on, and the window open just so
And the bathroom was filled with insects
And the web was filled with insects
For a spider that did not come.
Walking to Work
Wednesday. 11.9.11 4:56 am
I had a rather interesting commute to work today.... I left very late because I had to call the internet/tv/telephone company and yell at them. They give as good as they get, so I was cowed and I probably won't have internet for the rest of November. They'll still charge me of course, by directly taking money out of my bank account, but if I send a reimbursement form by registered mail I should receive a response yes or no about the reimbursement in about three months. I tried to change my payment method to something besides direct debit from my bank account, but that apparently requires a 400 euro deposit, billed immediately, and probably taken directly out of my bank account. I don't remember that being mentioned when I was signing up....
So I walked to the bank in the mood you are usually in after talking to your local cable company-- after wasting half of your monthly allotted cell phone minutes-- after hearing a completely terrible American song about taking your spanish lover to bed on the hold-line for the cable company for 15 minutes....
I got some money from the bank, and a guy came up to me and said, "I saw that you just got money from the bank." This is not the kind of thing that you want a stranger to be saying to you, especially after my Equadorian friend's wallet was stolen right after she went to an ATM [she later found out that the guy had spied on her while she typed in her code, and after he had her card he made three separate withdrawals of 2000 euros each (the limit on the machine) in a matter of 10 minutes]. But the guy was very unsketchy-looking and had a tape recorder and a microphone, so I stopped to talk to him.
He explained that he was a journalist, and he was doing a piece on how French people feel about their banks. I told him that I was sorry but that I wasn't French. He said that he guessed that wouldn't work then, but then he asked me some questions about how American people feel about the bank, and whether recent events in world finance has changed the way that people feel about their money. It is true that almost everyone in France has a debit card instead of a credit card. They pay for most things, even very expensive things, in cash. Their bills are directly debited from their accounts. They are very suspicious of most things that involve credit and they like to keep their money close. Americans, on the other hand, have gone off the edge of the planet as far as charging things on credit, to the point that many people don't even pay off their credit cards completely every month, instead spending a month ahead of their pay checks and ending up SOL when their paychecks are delayed or they get fired.
To my great luck, we had just studied journalism and "expressing opinions" in french class, so I had all of my "I distrust..." "In my opinion..." "For my part..." expressions ready to use.
Once in the metro, I was chillin' and not really paying attention to anything when I saw a little tiny Japanese girl with arms no thicker than my wrists. She had a giant suitcase and a big duffle bag on top of the suitcase. When the train stopped, she rushed through a crowd of people to the next door down. She was too late in arriving, so she missed her stop. I was trying to figure out why she didn't just leave out of the door that she had been in front of, but then I realized that she didn't know what to do to make the door open, which is a big problem that all the tourists have here. She seemed to realize the way to do it after examining the exit latch, so I watched to see if she would get off at the next station. A french woman exited out of the door where she had originally been standing, but as the japanese tourist tried to lift the latch on her door, she found it impossible to move (the hydraulics kick in when the train comes into the station, making the doors impossible to open by old or weak people). She probably could have opened it, but now she was confused. She was about to try to drag all of her stuff back through the crowd of people to the open door when I got up out of my seat, ran the three doors down the subway to where she was standing, and opened the door for her in time for her to get out of the train. "Thank-you," she said gratefully in a small voice.
HEY FRENCH PEOPLE! If I can tell from a car away that she's having trouble working the door, then the twelve of you sitting on your asses directly in front of the door certainly have to know that she's having trouble with the door. OPEN THE DOOR FOR HER!
That was really bad, even for French people. I felt so sorry for the poor girl who would now have to drag that giant suitcase up the stairs of the station, down the stairs to the other side of the tracks, take the subway back to the last station, opening all the subway doors as she goes, and then dragging the giant bag up the stairs in the right station. I almost got out of the car to help her carry them. I probably should have.
Sometimes Japanese tourists break my heart.
Friday. 10.28.11 1:56 pm
I'M SICK AGAIN!!! I JUST GOT BETTER!!!!
This time it's a cold though. Sore throat, runny nose. Usual stuff. It doesn't freak me out as much. I don't think it will stop me from going to see Muffy jumping, but I will try to avoid sneezing all over him in his moment of greatness.
This must be like when the Europeans first came to the New World and gave everyone every disease known to man. Those disease-ridden Europeans, I swear.
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