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
Lessons on Global Warming from the Garden of Eden
Thursday. 4.17.08 9:41 pm
Today I went to my Christian Fellowship meeting. It's the second time I went, the first time I ate jumbalaya, mmm-mm!
Anyway, this time we were focused on our relationship with the environment. We had invited the big environmental group on campus to talk about the environment and the intersection of the environment with people of faith.
The guy who leads it is really awesome. He is really laid back and casual, like a surfer. He's the kind of guy you imagine Jesus would be, really chill and peaceful but at the same time surprisingly deep and insightful. He's worried about whether or not we should be worried about the environment. I appreciate people who worry over what they should worry over. The environment is something I worry about less than I worry about the effects of good-intentioned people who go overboard trying to save the environment and do things that result in huge mistakes (like bio-fuels, for one pertinent example).
Anyway, last time I went we were talking about the story of Adam and Eve. In the story, they live in the garden and they are stewards of the garden and its inhabitants. It's not just that they live in harmony with the animals and plants, and it's not that they live just like any other animal. They live in the garden but they are the gardeners- they are masters of the animals and plants and they govern them. The best way to govern is to do subtle things that allow your garden to grow to its potential. Like any good master, they are really servants of the garden. They have a harmonious relationship with their environment, each other, and their God.
Then, when they eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they become aware of the difference between good and evil. They were made with free will, and now with the knowledge of good and evil, they have the capacity to choose evil, to suffer for it, and to cause others to suffer for it. The first thing they gain as a result of this action is shame at their nakedness, and they hide from God.
This leads to a hilarious joke about Genesis 3:10:
A new pastor moved into a town,
and he went out one day to visit
his parishioners. All went well until
he came upon this one house.
It was obvious that someone was
home, but no one came to the door
even after he had knocked several times.
Finally he took out his card, wrote on
the back "Revelation 3:20" and stuck it
on the back of the door.
"Behold, I stand at the door,
and knock: if any man hear my voice,
and open the door, I will come in to him,
and will dine with him, and he with me."
Later in the week, as he was counting
the offering, he found his card
in the collection plate
Below his message was the notation
Genesis 3:10: "And he said, I heard thy voice
in the garden, and I was afraid, because
I was naked: so I hid myself."
But anyway , jokes aside, their open and harmonious relationship with God is shattered. When God asks Adam if he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam immediately blames Eve for what he has done "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." When God asks Eve about it, she blames the serpent for tricking her. The knowledge has shattered relationships between humans as well. They realize that they were not only naked in the literal sense, but all of their thoughts and feelings and intentions had been exposed as well. And so they clothe these thoughts and intentions from each other. And last, they have shattered their relationship with their environment, and instead of the Earth continuously yielding bounty, they must work the ground with back-breaking labor in order to cause it to bear fruit.
If this weren't enough, God then enters his curious first person plural mode of speaking and says, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
You must recall that there were not one, but two trees in the middle of the garden, but Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from the Tree of Life, just not the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This seems to be extremely harsh of God right here. First, all of their most precious relationships have been damaged by their shame and their distance from each other, God, and their charge, the garden. Now God takes away the Tree of Life as well?
Here's where the guy who was giving the talk gives this story an interesting spin. He says that it isn't God's spite, but God's love that moves him to make this decision. It was Adam and Eve's choice to fall from grace, but if they ate the fruit of the Tree of Life, they would stay that way forever. They would always live in a world with broken relationships, a harsh and unforgiving environment incapable of being subdued or properly governed, and a distance from God. So it is from kindness that God bars the way to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life.
Naturally this message has to tie into the Christian message, because we're at a Christian Fellowship meeting. How?
Because Adam was the first gardener, but he isn't the last, says the leader-guy. When Jesus comes along, he says, "You live in a world that is full of pain, sin, suffering, turmoil, and distance from God. But God has brought back the Tree of Life, and offers a way for you to re-enter Eden, eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever."
Jesus is often compared to a shepard, but he is also a master gardener, and his sheep are gardeners, too (look how they've been trimming the grass!) In terms of the popular terms of today, you can't have a sustainable garden by making all of the gardeners unemployed. People have to be involved in making their part of the Earth flower and grow fruitful, because that's their purpose. It's their job to be steward of their fellow man, their environment, and themselves.
But anyway, you could tell that the environmental group was kind of there to manipulate us into hearing about their cause. In many ways, environmentalism is just like all of the evangelical Christian groups that they can't stand, angling for converts and convinced of their own holiness. We were there to learn about each other, but really we were there to learn about them, and they were there to convince us of the urgency of their message. Come on now. We invented that technique during the Middle Ages. Repent or face the end of the world? Change your ways before it's too late? It's been done.
One kid was Jewish, though, and he was the one who could relate best to where we were coming from. He was the only one that had felt the intensely personal feeling of a greater power. The other two said, "Spirituality" as a catch phrase to get our attention, but the one kid you could tell actually knew what that meant. But of course our leader had an interesting comment once again. He said that what the environmental movement lacks is hope. And that's something the community of faith has always had in spades. Ironically, the community of faith is just what the environmental movement needs: hope.
Wednesday. 4.16.08 7:42 pm
"If you look over the side of your boat and you see chunks of pumice floating in the water, run for the nearest life jacket immediately," my advisor begins.
Pumice is a very light volcanic rock. In the volcano, the pressure decreases as the magma rises to the surface, since the pressure on the magma is due to the overlying rock. Just before it reaches the surface, the pressure gets so low that gas, which had previously been squashed into the liquid, comes back out as a gas again, making bubbles in the liquid. These bubbles coalesce to form larger bubbles, until there are almost more bubbles than magma. The pieces of magma get stretched out to form the bubble walls. If the bubbles continue to grow, eventually the bubble walls will shatter, and the pieces of bubble-wall will be thrown out of the volcano and float to the ground as ash. That's why pieces of ash are so angular-looking.
If, however, the magma gets thrown out at that intermediate time, when the bubbles had been made but they weren't broken yet, then the result freezes into pumice, a rock filled with gas and holes that is so light it floats on water.
"When you see pumice floating all around your boat," continued my advisor, "this means that an eruption has just taken place perhaps immediately below you in the ocean. An explosive eruption under that much pressure [the pressure of the ocean water] requires a large amount of gas, and that gas gets released into the ocean water."
Now get this: If enough gas is released into the ocean water, the water will temporarily be reduced in density. That is, the column of water below the ship will be composed of a large portion of gas in addition to water. This makes a boat that is normally buoyant into the equivalent of a block of lead, because buoyancy depends on the relative densities of the two objects.
"Some Japanese fishing boats have radioed for help, citing just the same conditions that I have just described to you now."
He pauses for effect.
"Those boats were never heard from again."
Saturday. 4.5.08 4:44 pm
Sometimes, when I'm here alone in my kitchen, I start to cry. I just start crying, spontaneously.
Or maybe it's the onions that I'm chopping that does it.
Hmmm. Yes, it seems correlated with chopping onions.
Then I feel like I want to pour crude oil all over myself and slink across a table.
Thursday. 4.3.08 6:49 pm
So perhaps you have heard of Mr. Prandtl, giant among men in the field of fluid mechanics. Apparently back in the day, he had formulated his theories about laminar (laminar = not turbulent) flow around a cylinder and he had a bunch of equations that seemed extremely mathematically sound. This was before anyone even thought about turbulent flow, you see.
Pleased with his results, he took on a graduate student named Munch. Munch's project was to build a water tunnel and a cylinder, and then to take pictures of the flow going around it in order to prove experimentally his advisor's theoretical results.
So Munch built the flume, and he ran water through it, and sure enough, he found that the flow was completely different than his advisor had predicted. Like, COMPLETELY different. He took his results to his advisor, who, like all advisors in such situations, decided that his calculations were still right and that Munch had built the flume wrong. He told him to go back and rebuild it and make sure that the surface of the cylinder was extremely smooth, and the walls of the tunnel were extremely smooth, thus ensuring that the boundary conditions would match what Prandtl had proscribed.
For two years, Munch worked to make the walls of the tunnel smooth and the cylinder smooth, and to make the experiment exactly match Prandtl's specifications. But each time he ran the experiment he saw the same kind of flow and the cylinder would start vibrating when he turned up the velocity too high.
By this time, his office mate, VonKarman, had come back from the War. (Apparently he'd been in the Austrian Army or something). He resumed his studies and his place in Munch's office, and when he saw the experiments that Munch was running, he surmised that in fact the experiments were totally correct, and Prandtl was wrong (assumedly Prandtl was not VonKarman's advisor). So he went and made a theoretical model of what he thought was happening... that is- TURBULENCE! He decided that instead of sticking to the side of the cylinder as the flow bent around it, it would become separated from the cylinder, causing flow separation and the creation of alternating vorticies, which caused the cylinder to start vibrating. (Just like the singing islands or telephone wires that I've talked about in the past!)
So VonKarman published a paper about this, and now we have VonKarman vorticies, and we have a Prandtl Number, and do we have anything about Munch?
Perhaps only a scream of utter despair.
Moral of the story?
Don't go to graduate school.
It's That Time of Year Again
Saturday. 3.29.08 10:35 pm
O thou whose face hath felt the winter's wind
Whose eye has seen the snow clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm-tops 'mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
O thou whose only book has been the light
of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night, when Phoebus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.
ps- I added "Mitternacht" to the playlist. How could I resist! It's just so catchy!
Friday. 3.28.08 3:40 pm
So I'm sick. Something hideous. But that's not even the worst part. I'm bored. I'd rather look at pictures of Mars than just lying around here watching movies and doing nothing. What did I just say? AHH! They've brainwashed me!! I'm finished! Luckily, by watching Total Recall, I can combine both activities into one.
Typing would be easier if my cat weren't sitting on my hands right now.
Thursday. 3.20.08 10:35 pm
To say he woke up would imply that he had ever been asleep, which would be quite a generous overstatement of the truth. Like every other night since they had landed on the sea of Oobleck, his rising was more akin to giving up on sleep than rousing from it. He was no engineer, but the landing vehicle could have done with a significant amount of redesign. He nearly lost his balance when, in his exhausted state, he forgot to continue walking with the landing vehicle as it continued its steady rolling over the Oobleck outside.
He glanced up at his fellow astronaut. She had devised a kind of cocoon that left her hanging horizontally in the center of the hollow sphere, attached to its walls by tight ropes and bungee cords. This worked out fairly well so long as the sphere continued to roll orthogonal to her body, rolling her over and over as if she were rolling over in her sleep. What he couldn't handle about this system was when the ball decided to change direction, rolling the person in the cocoon head over foot. Even constantly rolling about on the floor was preferable to that for him.
He always naturally ended up somewhere near the bottom of the sphere despite the slightly reduced gravity. He climbed up the wall a slight bit to reach the control panel and re-aligned the spin of the sphere with his running track, a thin swatch of rubberized floor that ran all the way around the inside of the module. He noticed that his fellow astronaut had chosen this direction as her preferred rolling direction, probably so that she could sleep through his workout. She had a lot of ingenuity, he had to admit, but almost all of it was used in the service of laziness. He started off running, adding energy to the ambient movement of the ball and speeding its movement across the Oobleck. As long as he was running he could keep the spin from drifting off axis. Ever since before he had left for space exercise had become a central theme in his life. He had been very eager to go adventuring on faraway planets, but he always intended to return to the Earth. If he wanted to return to Earth after such a long time in reduced gravity, he had to keep his heart and bones in excellent shape. Otherwise, upon his return, his heart would be unable to pump his blood against the pull of Earth's gravity, and his weakened bones wouldn't be able to withstand the weight of his own body. He wondered if his colleague ever intended to return to Earth: she had been slacking on her exercise regime since the beginning. Did she want to die here, on this endless ocean of Oobleck? He could imagine her doing it- running one day out over the surface of the Oobleck, then stopping there and looking back at him while the green Oobleck sucked her down.
Like any non-newtonian liquid, Oobleck's viscosity changes depending on how fast you are straining it. If you run quickly, Oobleck is a solid. If you run too slowly, it is a suffocating liquid- you sink slowly and any sharp movements cause you to be trapped in a solid cast of strain-hardened Oobleck.
That was the reason for the design of the spacecraft --any stationary craft would have long ago sunk into the Oobleck-- this hamster ball of a landing module avoided this peril by staying constantly in motion and spreading its weight out on the submerged part of the hemisphere. There must have been some way to design a part of the module that didn't rotate with the spaceship, offering some modicum of peace and stillness.
Then again, they'd never meant for humans to occupy this module for this long, either.
Sunday. 3.16.08 5:09 pm
Well I'm back from the Great Beyond (aka Texas).
I'm hoping the inter-personal relationships of my co-workers will quietly return to status quo ante conference, but we can't always get what we want.
HGIR: I am from Berlin
Me: Oh, I love Berlin!
HGIR: Why do you love Berlin?
Me: Oh, there's so much history there!!
HGIR, morosely: Yes... I know...
Me, in an effort to recoup: You know, like Fredrick the Great!
Sam: I'm always taking pictures of [the Welshman].
The Welshman: Yes, he's always taking pictures of me, especially when I'm in the shower.
Distinguished British Professor who we didn't know was listening: Oh my.
on a teleconference
Mercury Researcher 1: We found another crater with a pit in the middle that looks like a telephone
Mercury Researcher 2: You found another telephone crater?
Mercury Researcher 3: What are they doing there?
Mercury Researcher 4: Maybe they're calling each other.
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