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. 4.12.11 9:35 pm
That afternoon I ended up in the ice-block quarry.
The ice sheet stretched away in every direction- flat, white, and featureless.
Our instructor had chosen a spot at random and plunged his hand saw into the ground. He easily sawed a straight line into the ice and then sat back and looked up at us, shielding his eyes from the unrelenting Antarctic sun. The saw dipped back into the ice sheet, sawing two perpendicular lines to make a brick. He grabbed a shovel and levered the block out of the ground.
You can dig an ice block quarry as deep as you would like. The sea is beneath you, somewhere, but you could build an mansion of ice blocks before you reached it, at least this time of year. We made the quarry three blocks deep. We learned quickly that the quality of your hand saw makes a big difference. I had a nice, new hand saw with a black grip and very pointed teeth. I sawed through the ice like it was butter.
We would saw a whole row, and then go back with a shovel to lever each one out, one at a time. We deposited them on a sledge, and the members of another crew would take them away to build ice walls around the camp. Ice walls were needed to protect the camp from the sea "breeze", which was roaring across the ice sheet, stirring up a haboob of snow with a vanguard of snow devils.
We wanted to have the ice-wall built before we ate dinner. The threat of nightfall seemed imminent, but our alarm was needless- there was no such thing as nightfall here.
Another group was building a small trench, only three blocks wide. They piled the blocks on the windward side as a wind break and carved a table and benches into the side of the trench. This was our kitchen. The people who had been setting up tents sat along the benches with their feet dangling into the trench and drank hot chocolate out of plastic mugs. Some people set up a stove on the table behind the wind-break and started cooking. Some rock-and-roll from a set of battery-powered speakers started drifting over to the ice quarry during the periods when the wind was at rest. Dinner consisted of packets of dehydrated food that had been expired since 2001. We filled them with hot water and ate them directly out of the packaging.
I felt lucky to be busy in the ice quarry: in Antarctica, being stationary meant being cold. As activity wound down, Mark and I cut some additional ice blocks and built a wind break around the quarry. We built a wall of ice blocks on either side of the quarry trench and placed three sleds across the top. We packed them with snow to insulate them. We marked the entrance with a small green flag on a long bamboo pole. This is required because it makes you easier to find if your snow shelter collapses. We mostly did it because we felt that it lent a bit of personality to our otherwise colorless dwelling. It occurred to me that like us, the bamboo was a long way from home.
Igloos can be very warm, if constructed correctly. As we were Antarctica rookies, ours was not constructed correctly. First of all, we made an igloo that was plenty big enough for two people. This was a mistake. We also slept at the lowest point of our igloo. This was a mistake. We each crawled into our sleeping bags wearing every item of clothing we had available. This was also a mistake.
The night we spent in the igloo would be the coldest night we would experience in Antarctica.
Sunday. 4.10.11 12:20 am
So I made reservations to fly to California for Alumni Weekend.
I booked it kind of late, so I ended up having to buy a weird flight that went out of Boston that was still moderately expensive. I booked it so that I would leave Sunday at 1 am to catch a red-eye back home, hoping to maximize my time in California.
Oh whoops, booking a flight that leaves on Sunday at 1 am means that I'm leaving SATURDAY NIGHT, not SUNDAY NIGHT.
To change it to the next night it would only cost $50, but since it's Continental, the change FEE is $150, meaning that I would be paying $200 to the pirates of Continental Airlines for BEING AN IDIOT. It would also add several hours and Chicago onto my itinerary.... LA-->Dallas-->Chicago-->Boston, all in the middle-of-the-night.
Or I could just leave on Saturday night and miss the alumni weekend events on Sunday that I already paid for. Not to mention how awesome I would feel when all of my friends asked me why I was leaving so early.
So Very Close Now, So Very Close
Thursday. 4.7.11 2:15 am
The thesis is almost finished.
I have to write the acknowledgments, I have to nice-up some reference lists, I have to read the whole thing one last time.
That's not trivial, as it ended up being over 300 pages.
[to be fair, it is double-spaced]
Tomorrow I shall PRINT IT OUT! I shall put it into binders, and I shall give it to my thesis committee so that they can have ten days to read it before my defense.
I have also just finished my talk for tomorrow. I'm supposed to give an hour-long talk about whatever I want. Ok, not whatever I want, because I would give a talk about the history of hot air balloons in warfare, but anything I want that has to do with my thesis.
I chose a subject which requires me to show lots of very pretty pictures of Mars.
Monday. 4.4.11 3:14 am
The power went out. In the absence of power, I couldn't do any work. Hours and hours passed by.
When the power came back on, I drove to school to reboot my computer so that I could access it from home.
It wouldn't boot. No hard-drives could be recognized.
I remembered that I had saved my thesis in an online dropbox. I went to the dropbox. No thesis. Oh yes, I remember, I was going to save it into the dropbox, but then it was too big and I got distracted.
Remember, silly, you're supposed to save your thesis in multiple places! I DID. They just all happened to be inaccessible at once. I still had most of the individual papers, just not put together into the beautiful formatted thesis document.
I tried to boot it again. I got some kind of boot menu. That was better than the calm black screen I had gotten before, advising me of a hardware malfunction, or the blue screen of death, filled with technical error codes that mean nothing to me and "hardware malfunction" to the forums.
I booted into safemode.
My files appeared.
I dragged them to the external drive.
I saved onto every drive I have in my possession, the same files, over and over and over. Altogether it took from 11 pm til 3:15 am to get back to the place I was before the blackout, which started at 5 pm. Only now I don't have a computer.
Sunday. 4.3.11 6:08 am
It's the Final Countdown
Saturday. 4.2.11 10:25 am
I have to print out my thesis next Thursday.
I'm still writing my last chapter. You know, the chapter I didn't even really realize was supposed to be a real chapter, the chapter which I just assumed was akin to a conclusion, since it was called the "synthesis" chapter; the chapter that everyone told me I could use to write whatever I wanted to freely explore the implications of my years and years of work? The chapter which my advisor then said should not be whatever I wanted in the least, and should instead be yet another complete, fully publishable unit, in which I didn't necessarily have to synthesize anything at all?
This is where the Nanowrimo-honed skills come in handy, the skills of just writing, writing and writing, words and words and more words, never looking back, always surging forward, occasionally checking the holy word count... right now I'm at 2605, which would be pretty good for an average Nanowrimo day... (notwithstanding that I wrote almost half of these words yesterday) but this day has to be like one of those insane, "I'm-10,000-words-behind" kind of days, the kind of day with 5000 words, 6000 words, a veritable tsunami of words that descends onto the unsuspecting blank pages of Microsoft Office 2003.
Only neither tsunamis nor fiction-writers have to stop every single sentence to verify their claims with a well-chosen reference to the peer-reviewed literature.
And neither fiction-writers nor tsunamis have all the deficiencies of their work immediately thrown back into their faces for a second, third, or fourth round of editing.
Meanwhile the citizens of Providence play frisbee outside my window on a lazy Saturday during Spring Break.
Sunday. 3.27.11 10:52 am
I was thinking about impact craters again. Impact craters, those giant divots in the ground made by the collision of asteroids and comets into the surface of a planet...
There is a deposit on the outside of an impact crater, people usually call it the "ejecta blanket".
My advisor doesn't like this term, because he feels like it doesn't capture the essence of how the deposit is emplaced. He says it makes it seem like it is laid down gently from above, like snow.
In fact the emplacement process consists of a giant shockwave that moves along the surface, forcing material outwards, overturning whole packages of rocks, creating a curtain of solid, burning rock fragments that advance in a growing ring. Large pieces of rock are continuously hurled into the surface, excavating even more rock, which in turn excavates more, further out, creating chains of elongate secondary craters.
My advisor always says that you'd like to have a "side-view" of that one. Of course I always imagine trying to get a side view of a radial process, and it's impossible.
I stared out the window of my room, where there is a high school with a large expanse of athletic fields. If a meteor were to crash into the field, the vantage point that my room offered would be the perfect side view.
I imagined it, streaking through the sky, slamming into the green space between the overgrown baseball diamonds, the impact flash, the vapor plume, the steaming hole it would leave behind.
Of course all of the scientists would be asking me about it afterwards. What angle did it come from? How fast was it going? Were there any colors associated with it? How did the crater look immediately after the impact? Did it collapse? The local authorities would be doing their best to control access to the site, and to make sure that the impact did not let off any toxic gases, which they are sometimes known to do. I would get there first, of course. I would call my professor who studies impacts, yes, but I would do so from the edge of the impact crater, where I would be looking for shards of meteorite to steal for my collection.
How imperfect, the human memory, I lamented. When my professor asked me all of the questions above I would only have the millisecond of flawed human memory to to rely on to estimate speed, color, and the process of the impact. How much nicer if I had got it on video. Depending on the speed of the video and the speed of the meteor, he could probably get a least two frames so that he could estimate speed. He could measure some angles to try to back out what direction it was coming from. I could post the video to YouTube or sell it to CNN. It would play over and over again, ad naseum.
I stared at my computer, and then back out at the empty grass outside. I walked across the room to fetch my video camera. I placed it on the window sill.
Just in case.
Sunday. 3.27.11 4:24 am
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