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
Sunday. 3.20.11 11:56 am
1. I am finishing my thesis. It must be finished by the end of March. Hence the slow-down of updates on Nutang.
2. I have set up a little home-office for myself where I remote desktop into my office computer and wear nothing but sweatpants and sweat shirts and eat nothing but okonomiyaki and cookies for days at a time.
3. I have pretty much finished four of my six chapters. The sixth chapter is just a synthesis chapter, so I will probably be writing that at 3 am the day before I have to print it out. I am halfway through my fifth chapter.
4. My favorite spacecraft ever, MESSENGER, successfully went into orbit around Mercury on St. Patrick's Day. We flew down to Maryland to where the mission control is so that we could be there for the orbit insertion. We flew down at about 3 pm on Thursday and then flew back at 7:30 am on Friday. We made posters about various aspects of Mercury and there was all kinds of SWAG including a poster with a graphic on it that I had made a couple of years ago in MS Paint when I was bored at a team meeting. I was not given credit. :p There were also delicious cookies-- I probably ate about seven.
This was the sweet graphic that I made in Paint. "Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington" pshaw.
You can learn more about MESSENGER here.
5. My bicycle finally melted out of the giant snowbank where it has been frozen for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it was revealed that when the plow piled all of the snow on top of the bike, it also bent the front wheel in a serious way. Now the bike is ruined. I really like having a bike, but I don't want to buy a new one since I'm moving in a few months and I can't take the bicycle where I'm going. Thanks, Brown University.
6. I'm still practicing Javanese gamelan like mad. My Russian scientist friends said that they would come to my concert in April if I reminded them.
How to be Invisible
Friday. 3.11.11 1:07 am
In middle school I was friends with two Korean girls.
After lunch we would go outside where people would stand around in groups of three or four and talk, because there was nothing else that we were allowed to do.
My two Korean friends would talk in Korean to each other, and I would just stand there.
Sometimes I would pretend like I was following the conversation, and look from speaker to speaker and occasionally nod my head.
But most of the time I would just stand there silently, staring into space.
In middle school, as long as you were with a group of people, even if they were speaking Korean, you could go unnoticed.
And in middle school, that's all anyone ever hopes to be.
Zanzibar, Cafeteria Lady
Tuesday. 3.1.11 8:28 am
Just got off of my first "shift" at the soup kitchen. We were serving pancakes today, I was in charge of syrup. I was also in charge of filling bowls full of Frosted Flakes before we opened. We went through Frosted Flakes like nothing, I kept having to trade off with the pancake guy to refill them.
Apparently everybody is really into sugar and carbs. We had Frosted Flakes, pancakes with syrup, and coffee... they put two big teaspoons of sugar in all of the coffee cups ahead of time.
It was pretty busy the whole time. The others said that sometimes the beginning of the month can be slow because people have just gotten their checks, so they go out and treat themselves to something else.
At the end the woman who was in charge shooed us away because she said that she could clean much faster than we could. She told us we could eat a pancake, so I ended up eating one (no syrup).
I think I'll go back, but the time of day is not my best... getting up at 5:50 am is bad enough... but when you were at work until 3 am?
I'm Thinking About Moving Here
Sunday. 2.27.11 7:24 pm
Don't worry, it seems remote, but they drilled an elevator shaft through the solid rock at the bottom of the observatory, connecting it to an underground railway that will take you anywhere in Europe.
Still a long way off...
Saturday. 2.26.11 10:27 pm
In approximately... 51 days... or 1238 hours... or 74305 minutes... I will defend my thesis.
AND THE NIGHTMARE THAT SWALLOWED MY HALF OF MY TWENTIES WILL FINALLY END!!
I wish I could just... fast-foward these 51 days....
The Moon in Astonishing Detail
Tuesday. 2.22.11 9:05 pm
Tuesday. 2.15.11 8:15 am
I met a woman on the plane.
She didn't speak English, and she asked me for help on her customs form. She had a bunch of information written on a form in Arabic, and she wanted me to transfer the relevant information into the right boxes on the customs form. Her form also had a french translation of everything, so I moved all of the information into the right boxes and asked her all of the questions on the customs form in the best french I could manage. Was she traveling with family? Was she bringing anything valuable? Did she live on a farm? Did she have more than $10,000 in monetary instruments? The answers were no and no and no and no.
She looked to be right around my age, and she was from Morocco, where they speak a mix of French and Arabic. She was wearing a muslim head-scarf. I recalled that during the whole flight I hadn't seen her take any of the free alcohol, and she never once watched the little TV set into the back of the seat in front of her. Our first interaction had been when she asked me how to buckle the seat belt on the airplane.
We got to talking. She was moving to Boston to be with her husband. They had been married for two years but he had lived in Boston for three years. It was a familiar story in muslim countries. The marriage would be arranged by her father through a series of contacts. The man often lived overseas and he would send for her when he felt like he was established or whenever he decided he wanted her to come. The first time they would meet might be their wedding day. She had never lived with him before, she said. "That will be different," I said, my vocabulary limited to drastic understatements. Yes, she said nervously. It will be different.
She had never traveled outside of Morocco. She told me about her home, filled with her family and parents and cousins, filled with the bright, hot Moroccan sunshine and the brilliant tiled corridors of the Moroccan streets. She loved the heat. She loved the desert. She said living in Morocco was so easy, you had your family, you had everything you needed.
How was Boston? She wanted to know.
I didn't want to answer. Cold. Frigid. Aggressive people who were always late for something. Neighbors who stayed in their homes. Snow piled up to the height of a man on every street corner. Dirty. Dark.
I told her instead that it was lovely in the summer, and that in the spring there would be many flowers, and that there was a beach that was nearby. I didn't know if she could ever expect to make it to the beach, or what she would be allowed to do there if she went.
Did she have any family in America? I asked. She didn't. Her husband had a brother in Boston, but that was it. She didn't know her husband's brother. She had a sister in Canada, whom she hadn't really heard from since she was married off to a man in a similar way several years ago. Her husband assured her that the sister wasn't far away. He assured her that he lived in a Moroccan part of Boston, so she would feel right at home. He assured her that English was easier to learn than French.
Was English easier to learn than French? She asked.
I didn't want to tell her. We talked about how beautiful and regular Arabic verbs were, instead.
I am not married, I said, not yet.
She told me that I should not hurry myself. "Quand on se marie, on perd sa liberté," she said.
When you get married, you lose your freedom.
I said that in Boston, it is the same. She said, "No. In Boston it is not the same as in Morocco." She shook her head vehemently.
I corrected myself to say that I meant that in Boston, the amount of freedom you had before you got married was pretty much the same as the amount of freedom you had after you got married.
Not for her, she implied. Not for moroccan women.
The plane landed. Outside the sky was grey and the runways were covered in dirty grey piles of snow. It looks cold, she said. Yes, I said, It is necessary always to have a coat.
I impulsively took a piece of paper from my notebook. On it I wrote my name, my phone number, my email address, and my street address.
"If you need anything..." I said, "...anything at all. If you have some trouble, and you need some help... please call me." She smiled and took the piece of paper. She held out the piece of paper that had the name and telephone number of her husband. "Here is my husband's number. I think it would be ok to call it," she said. She had me copy down the number.
I walked with her to the passport control and stood in line with her until she had to walk through alone. She had a large envelope that contained everything she should need to successfully immigrate. She hadn't been told nice things about the US immigration process. I felt like I should defend my countrymen, but I hadn't heard nice things about the US immigration process, either. We were both a little surprised and relieved to see that they had staffed all of the booths with people who spoke french. They wouldn't let me go through with her, so I had to wait for her in the baggage claim. I ran over as soon as I saw her. She was being escorted to the secondary baggage check. The officer who was with her was incredibly kindly and I asked how long it would take for her papers to be processed. He told me a half an hour to 45 minutes.
I had to go, my boss was waiting for me to take me home, having no idea where I had gone. I told her I had to go. I told her that everything would be ok and that it was very easy from here. She said she understood. We embraced tightly and she kissed me on both cheeks.
"Thank you." she said, in English.
"Bonne Chance," I said. Good Luck.
And thus our lives diverged.
Paris in the Fall
Friday. 2.11.11 8:44 pm
The discotheque is in the old brick cellar of a bar called "L'Antidote" on a winding alleyway in the 5e arrondissement. The dance floor is full of atmospheric scientists, doing a dance they call "The Gravity Wave".
My future boss dances his way through the gravity wave. "As you can see, Paris is a very difficult place to work," he says, kissing me on both cheeks.
"See you in September."
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