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
Wednesday. 7.27.16 3:57 am
We had a softball game today, and I was elected coach by virtue of the fact that I happened to be bringing the clipboard to the game and our real coach was called away to pick up his kids at the last minute.
Most of our team showed up about 15-20 minutes late. For the first inning the other team had to lend us a bunch of players. We were a bit nervous because they are one of the better teams in the league. At last a gaggle of interns and foreigners showed up, and the game began in earnest. In a great turn of fortune, a random guy named Drew happened to be walking by, looking for a soccer game, just as we were desperate for more players.
Me: "Is that guy ours?"
Josh: "Uh... he doesn't look familiar..."
Intern: "Oh, he works in my office!"
Us: "CONVINCE HIM TO JOIN THE TEAM!"
His name was Drew. Turns out he couldn't find the soccer game, and he just happened to have his baseball glove in his trunk, so he was drafted on the spot and instantly became one of our best players. I put him at shortstop, third base, first base, and outfield, and I was convinced that he could have played literally any other position if the game had gone on for more innings.
Thrust, as I was, into the role of team captain without any warning, I had to come up with the roster, announce the batters, and coach the team. 90% of the people on the team were total newbies, to the point that we only had a very few people who knew the rules well enough to coach first and third base. Most of the others were foreigners-- Israeli, French, Italian, Indian, etc. We had to say, "Run to second! Now STOP! STOP ON SECOND! GET BACK ON THE BASE! AHHHH! STAND ON THE BASE!!!!!!"
There was a lot of coaching. We ended up with tons of players, which is great, but which also makes coming up with the roster for each and every new inning a shell game of epic proportions. I started out doing pretty poorly (more than once ending up somehow with five outfielders, none of whom was aware that there was a problem), but as time went on things improved.
Raju, our Indian player, has graduated from being a total newbie who runs with the bat all the way to first base, to being a reliable fielder, thrower, and hitter. When he came up to bat everyone saw the awkward way he held the bat and brought the outfield in, and then someone said, "UH-OH, WHAT IF HE'S A CRICKET PLAYER?" and everyone scrambled to move back out again. For the record, he is a cricket player.
Despite all of these challenges, we found ourselves up 15 to 14 in the top of the last inning, with the other team up to bat. They got some runners going, and hit one to deep center where Josh's intern was playing for the first time in his life. I'd taken Josh out of the game (despite the fact that he was our star outfielder) because I was trying to give everyone an equal amount of playing time. Amazingly the intern ran after the ball and hurled it back to our good luck charm, Drew, who likewise lasered it to home, where we tagged out a runner before she could score. The subsequent outs were at least as amazing. Carla was playing right field, as she was recovering from surgery and forbidden from playing contact sports. They hit one out to her, and she got it after a few hops and fired it to second base, where the too-cocky batter was TAGGED OUT COLD by ubiquitous shortstop Drew.
Not to be dissuaded, they hit it out to Carla again, who got under it for an amazing catch. ESPECIALLY since we had run out of baseball gloves and Carla was fielding the whole inning with a tiny child's glove that didn't even completely fit on her hand!
The score was 15 to 15. Bottom of the last inning. Our team gets up to bat. Old fan favorite Steve leads off by hitting it hard to right but the first baseman snags it with an incredible catch. Dream outfielder and slugger Josh knocks it deep into right for a double. THEN, Marco, Italian, intern, person-who-knows-literally-nothing-about-baseball, pokes one into the outfield just far enough so that speedy Josh can score the winning run.
THE CROWD GOES WILD.
A bunch of other stuff obviously happened today but clearly this was the most important.
A Taxing Day
Tuesday. 6.14.16 6:15 pm
The State of California tried to come after me for more than $7000 that they claimed I owed them in taxes, instead of paying me the $700 that they actually owe me.
After spending much of the day calling them and dealing with their impenetrable robotic defense network, I spoke to a living human being with a heavy accent who informed me after a long, long time on hold that "the system" had placed a number on the wrong line and I didn't actually owe them $7000, and that I should soon receive my payment for $700 in my account as expected, since I had filled out my tax return correctly. I can only assume that this will be accompanied by a "sorry" note and the same amount in "Interest & Fees on late payment" that they were planning on charging me.
I'm no mathematician, but 8515.00 - 109.00 does not equal 16811.00.
Friday. 6.10.16 4:45 am
I felt my second earthquake ever today! I was at work, working away (just kidding, I was sleeping on my desk, because it was like one in the morning) and then SHAZAM, an EARTHQUAKE. Such a weird feeling from the 8th floor of my building. I couldn't be sure and then I looked over and saw that my empty water bottle was still trembling.
I think it was a 5.1. WOAAAAH.
A Slice of Life
Thursday. 5.12.16 12:13 am
When I lived in Providence, Rhode Island, my apartment had a little backyard. In the backyard was a little tree with branches that grew like an umbrella. In the summer, bunches of white flowers bloomed, weighting down the branches. One year I planted a bunch of flowers in the harsh Providence soil. I traveled so much in those days that I didn't even see when they sprouted and bloomed. Our neighbors, a very young and impulsive couple, married themselves below our umbrella tree and wove my flowers in their hair. When I returned, the garden was empty.
It's a strange little life that I've made for myself here in California. My house sits in an eccentric little neighborhood with towering pines and leafy avocado trees. Occasional lemons, oranges, and stately palms give the place a tropical feel, especially this year, which has been heavy with rain. The clouds gather in misty splendor around the mountains and the arroyo has filled with saplings. When the leaves rustle, it's usually a lizard. I still find them to be quite novel after all this time.
I have a job that I love. I tell people that all I have to do for the next 30 years is not get fired. It's weird to feel committed to a workplace like that, especially after so many years of moving around all the time. I guess it's kind of like marrying someone. JPL has its flaws, clearly visible and annoying, but I'd be content to let them annoy me for the next 30 years at least. JPL's redeeming qualities more than make up for these things. JPL's campus feels like a playground. Each building you enter contains something more amazing than the last: people driving a half a Mars rover over a circle of fake terrain... a house-sized robot in the shape of giant spider... tiny robots that can climb up walls like my garden lizards... real flight spacecraft in the process of being assembled. There are plenty of buildings I haven't explored yet. There is plenty of time for that. People more senior than I am are in the midst of filling our hallways with new hires. We have no voice in the hiring process. I wonder if the senior scientists, a few years from retirement, realize that they're hiring our friends for the next 30 years. It's a mistake to hire the best one, people always tell me. Hire the one who will get along with everyone else in the group. One superstar is great, but a team is greater. I still have a frequent urge to move away to a place where I can buy a house on a big plot of land and have five kids and let them run wild through the great outdoors. But how could I leave my job? How many people wake up in the morning with their heart a-leaping at the thought of getting to go to work that day? Maybe I can buy a little shack somewhere in Utah and we can spend the summers there.
In the evenings my little dog Juan Pablo and I walk around the neighborhood, looking at the houses. When I arrived I'd looked at them despairingly-- tiny little shacks with prices in the high six figures-- it was criminal. Now I'm more discerning. This one is small, yes, but it has a beautiful Spanish balcony. This one has a large gazebo in the backyard. This one has a large, exposed front yard, but if I planted some hedges I could make a beautiful little private garden. There are always possibilities.
My gym is close by. When I signed up I told the guy that I was going to attend the gym for one year. "Exactly one year?" he said, skeptically. "Not three months?" "A year," I said, annoyed. "Not more than a year?" he said. I smirked at him. "My desire is to go to the gym for exactly one year, not a day more nor a day less." He gave me my year-long membership. Now we are a little community of zumba-dancers, women about my age and considerably older, from every race on Earth. We look at each other with breathless despair between all of the fast songs, and that's what brings us together.
I have habits now. After years of constant traveling, being gone at least one week out of each month, I've made an effort to be still for a while. Take classes. Host garden parties. Every weekend I have to wind my grandmother's old clock. Every morning I have to water my herb garden. I vacuum. I clean the counters. There is only me, so everything stays pretty clean. I am annoyed when someone moves something out of its place. This is new. I'll have to relax again a bit if I ever find myself a family. Sometimes, when I go out walking in the evening with Juan Pablo, I leave the door unlocked and all of the lights on, so I can pretend that we're not coming home to an empty home.
Since it is summer, I've been playing softball in a league. Everyone is always surprised, but JPL not only has enough softball teams to fill a league, but enough to fill THREE leagues. We are the C league, the lowest league there is. One time I played for the B league, but they actually have strikes there. In fact, you only get two strikes before you're out. It's too serious there. I've never even met anyone who plays in A league. I like the C league because sometimes a stray child or dog runs on the field, and everyone has to chase it. Sometimes they put kids up to bat, and let them catch. Everyone's boyfriend who is in town for the week can play, and in the middle of summer we fill the team with interns. I can't remember how I got on the LA Radars, but I'll play for them for the next couple of decades, God willing. Maybe even after I retire.
My house is a little two-bedroom rental in the backyard of a larger house. It has a picket fence around a little yard and patio. I have a deck for my herb garden that has the perfect amount of sun. Maybe at the end of the summer I'll have a tomato. I can walk to the library from my house. It doesn't have very many books, but it has enough of the basics to keep me busy. I'm in a book club, and I'm in town for most the meetings. What a novelty. My friends in France want me to come and visit them in France. My friends and colleagues want me to come to Iceland. Or Hawaii. Or Brazil. I just want to stay in Altadena, playing with Juan Pablo and watching my garden grow.
The Popularity of Asteroids
Wednesday. 4.13.16 7:51 pm
Today I gave a seminar on asteroids. It's part of a seminar series that I've been doing, called "A Tour of the Planets". Each month I give a lecture on a different planet, working my way from Mercury through Pluto and beyond. Today's talk was fun--- the entire conference room was filled with people, which was kind of unexpected. There were about 34 people who came and there weren't even enough chairs for them all. I've been doing a lot of these talks in the same conference room, so it's been fun to see the room get more and more full with each planet as the people who came before return and the word spreads to new people.
Maybe by the time I get to Pluto I'll need an auditorium!
Saturday. 4.9.16 4:34 pm
I ran into one of my bosses in line at the cafeteria. "Hey!" he said, "How are you doing? Is everything going ok?" He seemed genuinely concerned about my well being, so I assured him that everything was going well. He had just gotten a big promotion, so he remained my boss, but much higher up the chain.
"So do I have to call you 'sir' from now on?" I asked with a wink.
"Nah, but if you see me with some really important people, we should pretend that we don't know each other."
"No problem," I replied, "I was planning on doing that anyway. So do you know who is going to take your old position?"
"Why," he asked, "Are you going to apply?"
"Oh, I would," I replied, "given how 'fun' you made the job seem..."
"You know," he said, turning serious, "I never thought that I would go into management. When I was in grad school, reading text books about pdf functions, none of that was to prepare me for management. But then someone told me the secret: in order to succeed at management, you just have to succeed in making people believe that you genuinely care about them, even though you don't!"
We were about to part ways. He looked at me very seriously and said, "So how are you doing? Is everything going ok?" He seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being.
Ten Things that Are Going On
Thursday. 3.31.16 8:09 pm
I love my little dog
Thursday. 2.11.16 2:32 am
We have our little rituals, Juan Pablo and I. Every night I make my bed. He gets on the bed and I throw the sheet on top of him. He runs around, twisting and turning to try to fight his way out of the sheet, sometimes falling off the edge of the bed. Then he jumps back up again, ready to do the same thing with the blanket. And then the quilt.
When I get home from work I lie on the floor and surf the web on my phone. He lies right next to me and chews up his rawhide. Surfing memes and chewing up rawhide must stimulate the same part of the brain. He eats his dinner while I eat mine and I read the Weekly Standard. I chase him down the hall, he chases me back. Sometimes I hide in the study and it takes him a moment to find me. We chase each other until we're breathing so hard that we have to stop for a drink of water. Then it's time for a walk, up and down the streets of Altadena, to all of our favorite bushes and patches of grass.
In the mornings we wake up and strrrrretch and then we lie on the bed with our chins on the window sill, watching the neighbor's cat and bulldog. Since I am a magician with long arms and opposable thumbs, I can open the window to let in the smells of the cat and the dog and the orange grove. Sometimes the neighbor comes out to water the orange trees. One of us gently growls every time a new person or animal appears on the scene.
I love my little dog.
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