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
An Elephant in Kim Jong Il's Court
Monday. 3.22.10 7:22 am
I had a dream that I was a spy. My task: to infiltrate Kim Jong Il's Palace. They were having a huge rally with thousands of people in attendance, so I didn't think it would be too hard. The complication? I was an elephant. Through some weird body-changing voodoo, I had become an elephant and I was sharing my brain with some wise-cracking creature who couldn't control what I was doing but couldn't refrain from commenting on it. He kept saying, "I think we should start talking about the elephant in the room..." and then laughing at his own joke for several minutes while I was trying to think. I had crept up behind the stage where Kim Jong Il was speaking; there were a bunch of really wide pillars there and I was on my hind legs stretched up very skinny (for an elephant) with my back against the pillar. My trunk kept looking around the side like a periscope, I could barely control the thing, it was like its own living entity. "Your trunk is showing," said the voice in my head, "Move your trunk! You are the worst spy ever! How can they send an elephant to do this job..."
Just then, Kim Jong Il finished his speech and got into his car. His motorcade was going to drive right past me on the back-side of the stage. I had nowhere to run to, nothing to hide behind. I grabbed a potted plant and held it in front of me, making a walking-like-an-egyptian shape with my body and trunk, and I held perfectly still. The voice in my head was very skeptical, but the motorcade passed right by without even seeing me! I was so relieved. Maybe all those cartoons I'd seen over the years were right.
My Sister's Keeper
Saturday. 3.20.10 7:46 pm
“Where is your sister?” asked Mother once Anna was dry, had finished dancing, and was finally dressed. Anna finished tying the long laces on her Converse sneakers. Converse sneakers, pinnacles of sneaker-design, were flat at the ends, and thus facilitated standing on one’s toes at all times. En pointe! Flat! En pointe! Flat! En pointe! Flat! “Stop that!” said Mother, who was trying to run a hairbrush through Anna’s hair.
“Ow,” said Anna. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.”
“Where is your sister?” Mother asked again. Anna shrugged. Mother was not placated by this response. She wanted her sister found, and wanted Anna to find her.
Much to Anna’s luck, the phone rang. Mother picked up the phone and Anna listened very carefully. It was the father of the next-door-neighbors. “Your daughter Elizabeth is here,” he said, “we wanted to ask if it was all right for her to sleep over tonight.”
Mother seemed hesitant. “That sounds fine,” she answered, “can I talk to her?”
“She’s out swimming at the moment, would you like me to go and get her?” he answered.
Mother responded that it wasn’t necessary and hung up the phone.
“Well, I was going to go to the bank,” she said. “Do you want to go next door and play with your sister, or do you want to go to the bank with me?”
Anna didn’t have to think very hard about that. Sisters were sisters, but The Bank had a Candy Machine.
Sunday. 3.14.10 9:03 pm
Saturday. 3.13.10 2:22 pm
Perhaps it wasn’t a completely ordinary day, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of day where you expected your little sister to disappear from The Face Of The Earth.
Anna was huddled on a cold, dark street, and it had been raining very steadily for the past half an hour. She had her legs and tail tucked under her body and her head was resting on her paws, but the rainwater was pooling, and as she breathed in and out she occasionally sucked it between her teeth. What a cold and lonely way to die, Anna thought miserably, for what else could be expected to happen to a lost and forlorn puppy out in the dark and rainy night?
“Anna!” called Mother, “You’ve been in the shower for a half an hour. If you don’t come out right now, I'll have to come in there and get you.”
In the blink of an eye, Anna the Dog turned back into Anna the Girl, the asphalt turned into tile, and it became obvious that the rain was only falling directly on Anna’s head. She reached up lethargically and turned the water dial back to HOT. At a sound in the next room, she shot up from the floor and grabbed the bar of soap. You see, Anna cared about serious things, like Life and Death, Tragedies, and What Dogs Are Thinking. Mother cared about completely different and rather unimportant things like Sanitation, Ladylike Behavior, and Being On Time.
“I’m almost finished,” she called. Yes, almost finished, meaning that it was just about time to begin washing, the most boring and tiresome part of being in the shower. She covered her face in a thick layer of soap and then opened the shower door a crack to let the cold air freeze the soap to her face. She made an angry face, wrinkling her nose and narrowing her eyes, then a very sad face, letting her mouth drip into a deep frown. She ran her fingers over the caked and cracked surface. “O,” she said quietly, “the leprosy… my skin… my beautiful skin.” The soap came off in flakes and chunks. “Don’t look at me, my child,” said Anna, her voice low and hollow, “I’m hideous!”
“Anna!” reminded Mother smartly from nearer-than-Anna-thought. Anna frowned a real frown this time, rinsed the remaining soap from her face, and finished washing.
Hark! It is Spring!
Tuesday. 3.9.10 11:45 pm
Water for Christmas
Sunday. 3.7.10 7:12 pm
Whose fault it was, it was difficult to say. I took the fault squarely upon my shoulders, of course, and because he is a gentleman the Welshman blamed himself, but regardless of who was to blame it was a matter of simple and objective mathematics that we were going to run out of water in two days, and we weren't scheduled to leave the field for twelve.
From the moment that we recognized our water shortage, water was all we thought about. A quick inventory of the camp supplies after our discovery had turned up a shortage of mo-gas (needed to charge our radios and sat-phones), paper towels, and alcohol). Luckily we had solar panels for the comms and 24-hours of daylight, so as long as it wasn't cloudy we could still charge the radios. Movie nights came to a stop. We played music until one by one our mp3 players ran out of batteries.
But all we thought about was water.
According to the United States Antarctic Program and Raytheon Polar Services, the recommended amount of water for each person to drink while in the field in Antarctica is two liters per day. Nobody ever drank that much water except for Chipmunk, which might have been why he was so energetic and lively. We never used water for cleaning, instead wiping off dishes and pots with paper towels. When we made pasta, we put in only enough water to make the pasta, with no residual. As time went on, we didn't make pasta or rice at all, instead opting for meat and bread which didn't require any additional water. We guarded the water barrels, terrified they would spill. Our PI, who was in a different camp, finally told us that his camp was going to pull out a couple of days early, and we could bring in our water when the helicopter came to get them.
At first we would joke about water. Joke about our PI and how he didn't want us to call another helicopter because we were low on helicopter hours, joke about how he told me to tell Chipmunk to just drink less water. But as the days wore on, we grew sick with our thoughts of water. We kept repeating the same jokes but we stopped laughing at them.
We started to talk in hypothetical terms about what we would do if the helicopter didn't make it in on time. Katabatic events, strong wind-storms that came roaring off the polar ice cap, often came without warning and lasted up to four days, making it impossible for helicopters to fly out to the valleys. We thought about walking to Lake Vanda, a thermo-haline lake a half day's walk away. We thought there might be a few huts there a couple hours farther on-- maybe there were some scientists living there who could take us in. But we hadn't heard their chatter on the radio, so we couldn't count on it. There was a fairly large possibility that we would arrive to find empty huts, too cold to sleep us over night without our incredibly heavy sleeping kits, and find that we could only gaze hungrily on a lake that was too salty to drink.
Another source of water was the looming alpine glaciers, far above our camp. Unfortunately a hike to these sources was more demanding and took just as long as hiking to the lake due to the extreme change in altitude. Even if we got there it would be difficult to carry back all of the snow we would need, since ice and snow take up such a greater volume than water.
Chipmunk pulled out a juice box on one of our breaks from hiking. He told us that he had been replacing one of his daily liters of water with a juice box to save water. We told him not to listen to our PI's unkind remark about his drinking habits, but we all started drinking juice boxes instead of water. Chipmunk started mulling over ways that we could extract the alcohol from our five remaining beers to leave behind enough water to hydrate us.
Our other plan was to try to hike to the camp down in the lower part of the valley where our PI was. Without gear we could probably make it to their camp in a hard day's worth of hiking. Still, their water supply was probably only enough to sustain them, and we weren't quite certain of the location of their camp. All we knew is that we had line-of-sight radio contact from the ridge overlooking the lake. But up on the hillside near their camp were four large alpine glaciers, beautiful frozen tongues of fresh water-ice, uncontaminated by life or salt. If we could make it to the glaciers we would have water. If we could make it to the Lower Valley camp, we would survive the night.
The next day I awoke to see that a rare, thin blanket of snow had covered the valley walls during the "night". I told the boys where I was going and went out with a trowel and a plastic trash bag to try to collect as much of it as I could. The snow was very thin, and where it collected on the sand it was impossible to harvest without gathering mostly dirt. Where it collected on the rock I could scrape it rather efficiently into my bag, collecting millimeters of snow on most rocks and a little more than a centimeter on the best. The Welshman came out after a short time to help me, but our usual carefree banter was subdued by the growing seriousness of our task. He and Chipmunk were developing sores on the sides of their tongues from dehydration. Everyone's urine looked like apple juice. Our exchanges consisted of pointing out rocks which seemed to hold the thickest snow or the greatest surface area. It struck me to think about what a strange situation I was in: thousands of miles from home, in a cold, isolated desert surrounded by the largest ice cap on the Earth but unable to get to it. At home I could go to the sink and turn on the tap. Even in a different year in the Dry Valleys there would be snow-banks large enough for us to mine for our water, but not now. Now I was carefully scraping bits of ice off the sides of rocks with a shovel.
After three hours the snow had started to sublime from the rocks and our ratio of work to snow was dropping off precipitously. We dragged the snow back to the tent and melted it. To my pride we had collected about a pot's worth, which would be enough to last us for an entire day.
The snow tasted very strange, being as it was mixed with so much sand and rock, but we drank it gladly.
The next day was the day of the camp pull-out for the other camp. They were tired of the field and wanted very much to get back to base; we were unsympathetic as we imagined them pouring whole jugs of water over their heads for sport and making vast vats of pasta and rice. The weather looked bad. There was a large cloud that seemed to be blocking the entrance to the upper part of the valley. We heard our colleagues on the radio: "The Lower Valley is very clear," they said, "but the Upper Valley looks blocked." They didn't want the cloudiness of the upper valley to ruin their chances of pulling their camp out, but we were rather outraged that they would relay unnecessary discouraging remarks about the upper valley when they could easily stay another night in the valley while we would be forced to drink our very last day's worth of water!
The fog was getting thicker over the lake. Helo-Ops called to inform us that they were delaying their pick-up and drop-off to see if the weather improved. The Lower Camp was unhappy; we despaired. In the late afternoon Helo-Ops called to say that they were going to attempt the operation. We waited in silence. At last we heard a far-away shudder of helicopter blades echoing against the valley walls. A tiny black dot appeared out of the eastern fog. It contained twenty-five gallons of water and ten gallons of mo-gas. After dropping off our supplies it returned to the lower valley and pulled out our colleagues' camp. We had a grand celebration and drank all the water we could fit into our bellies and watched movies all night long. We threw out the rest of the funny-tasting water that The Welshman and I had spent so much time collecting.
The next day a Christmas helicopter arrived carrying a large number of Christmas elves and reindeer and a box filled with fruit, bread, vegetables and cheeses. Two days after that it was Christmas, and it snowed and snowed and snowed, more than any of us had ever seen it snow in the Dry Valleys before! The helicopters couldn't fly for days, but it didn't matter. Water! Water! Everywhere! The finest Christmas ever!
And now here I am, sitting in my warm apartment, a foot away from a magic spout that dispenses that life-giving liquid at my pleasure.
The True Story of Richard Nixon...
Wednesday. 3.3.10 9:39 pm
...according to my dream.
I was Richard Nixon. A young, athletic Richard Nixon. We're talking Whittier, football-playing Nixon:
But I was in the White House. Being a president is difficult, even in a dream, and I had a lot of things on my mind. Domestic affairs, foreign affairs, certain troubling whisperings about the unethical actions of certain members of my staff, and even a wild rumor about how some madperson was planning to kidnap me.
I was pacing among the columns of the Jefferson Memorial, trying to clear my cluttered head, when I saw them. By their very movements they seemed suspicious. I followed them down the colonnade, hoping that they would lead me to some answers about the burgeoning Watergate scandal.
I followed them down underground into an expansive white room. The floor was covered in blocks of white marble in various shapes and lengths with each block no more than calf-height. They made their way over the obstacles, black marks on the otherwise spotless white room. The ceiling stretched away above us, and I felt quite exposed. They didn't look back. They made their way to a large pit in the corner of the giant room. I followed them down into the pit. Thick white ropes, chain netting, and platforms allowed me to make my way into the pit. I reflected on how lucky it was that I was still young and agile, or I might not have been able to follow them down this path. Finally I reached the bottom. My quarries were out of sight. The pit was about the size of a swimming pool in planform, being extended much deeper in the third dimension. There was no outlet. I found an opening in the wall, the size and shape of a pipe, about a hand's width in diameter. It extended back into the wall, lit somewhere near the other end.
There was no outlet. There was no way back the way I had come. There were no people here.
I was trapped.
Those wild rumors, about someone trying to kidnap me... they were true.
Three years passed. Slowly. I had no furniture. I had no bed. I had nothing to write on and nothing to read. Every day just enough food to sustain me came through the pipe-opening in the wall. The only thing I could do was think. Think, every day and every night in that white ever-lit prison, sterile and silent.
Then one day, they released me. They never revealed why they had kidnapped me or who they were. They had never threatened me or issued me any demands. No one had ever even approached or talked to me. Just nothing for three years, followed by a door opening and an unseen someone taking me and leaving me on the streets of Washington, D.C.
In the book that I subsequently wrote about my experiences, I regretted most not having a pen and a piece of paper on which I could write my thoughts. I referenced the house arrest of the famous scientist Tsien Hsue-shen who developed a large part of ballistic missile theory while in seclusion. Not that I could have developed ballistic missile theory, I admitted, especially without any notes or references, but it would have made the task of keeping insanity at bay immeasurably easier. Writing the book had helped me finally come to terms with the years of my imprisonment and to let go of the anger that had consumed me in the those first months against my still unknown captors.
Then, one day, I was walking down the street with my friend Bronwen when she revealed that it was she who had kept me imprisoned. SHE HAD KEPT ME IMPRISONED. I grabbed her forcibly and threw her to the sidewalk. I shook her by the shoulders and screamed, "WHY?!" "WHY?!!?" "YOU STOLE MY LIFE! YOU TOOK AWAY THREE YEARS OF MY LIFE!" I was so angry I thought I would accidentally crush her delicate body just by the force of my anger. WHY BRONWEN? WHY DID YOU TAKE AWAY MY LIFE?
She had no answer.
I woke up. I didn't know where I was. How many years had passed while I was asleep? Surely more than ten, but the clock said it had been no more than a single night. I took a shower. I walked to the conference center. I sat through several talks. I tried to listen. But my cool, white, marble prison still felt a hundred times more real than my life.
Monday. 3.1.10 10:45 pm
We have had your manuscript reviewed for both scientific content and journal-specific criteria. Based on this evaluation, I cannot consider your manuscript further for publication in our journal. Attached below are the review comments, which cite several significant problems with the manuscript as presented. I hope that you find these comments helpful if you decide to revise the paper and submit it to another journal. I am sorry I cannot be more encouraging at this time.
Just when I thought I couldn't be any more rejected.
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