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
Saturday. 9.1.07 7:56 pm
He was my enemy, but I'm sorry
Now, with all my heart, for the misfortune
Which holds him in its deadly grip. This touches
My state as well as his. Are we not
All living things, mere phantoms, shadows of nothing?
Going to Mars, anyone?
Friday. 8.31.07 6:52 pm
So a couple of people in my office are on the team to plan the human exploration of Mars. I was sitting in on the teleconference they had the other day and it was pretty interesting. Of course, some people think that planning some 30 years ahead for the human exploration of Mars is planning a little *too* far ahead, but for a project this large, I'm sure it can't hurt to start a little early.
The idea right now is to build a base on the Moon first. The eyes of the world have shifted back to the moon for several reasons, one, because Chinese and Indians are racing there, much like the USA and the USSR did back in the day, and two, because we've realized that a lot of the technology that we used to get us there in the first place has been lost or forgotten and we have precious little time to pump the guys in charge for that kind of information, because they were all old back then, and it's approximately 40 years later now. Thirdly, we see the moon as the obvious stepping stone on our way to Mars.
Each planetary body has its own challenges. Mars is very far away. That is its main challenge. Just to get there at current speeds it would take about 6 months. Then you'd likely stay on the surface for about a year. Then it would be 6 months back home. During that time in microgravity, your heart would start to weaken. It would weaken because it no longer has to pump your blood against gravity, and like any other muscle, it would start to atrophy and break down a bit with disuse. This wouldn't be a problem if you intended to stay in space forever, but if you ever came back down to the Earth your heart might be overwhelmed with strain and fail. The same goes for your bones. The more weight you carry around, the stronger your bones are, because they build up density proportional to your weight. Weightless, your bones would slowly lose their density until you would return to Earth extremely brittle and possibly unable to stand.
The only fix against this kind of deterioration is constant exercise. You would have to exercise on exercise machines for hours and hours and hours so that your body would stay fit. Forget sleeping through the whole thing... unless they could freeze or stop your normal body processes... you would turn to mush. I guess that's the whole idea behind the "cryo-freeze"-- somehow you stop your body from deteriorating while you're in space.
NASA has been figuring out what astronauts need to do to stay healthy on long space voyages by sending people up for extended stays on the International Space Station (ISS). Sending people up here for stints of 3-6 months has allowed NASA to develop a routine that would keep them in shape.
The other tough thing about the long trip to Mars would be just getting along with your crew mates for that long. NASA, in addition to having all kinds of physical, academic, and skill-oriented requirements for astronauts also has personality requirements. For each mission they choose among their qualified crew members a group that will get along-- i.e., they don't choose two dominant people to go on a mission, or a whole crew of passive or submissive personality types. They have to choose a leader, a mediator, and a "care-taker", in some cases.
Exploration of Mars is still a long way off, to be sure, but if everything goes as planned, you could see it happen in your lifetime. We're already deciding where we want to go and what the astronauts will do when they get there. If you have a suggestion about where you want to go or what information you would like to know about the Red Planet (or any other planet for that matter), I'll make sure somebody hears about it.
Friday. 8.31.07 12:08 am
Yep, that's right. I found a feature on Mars that looks like a MUSHROOM:
Pretty crazy, hehn? I know. Prett-y crazy.
I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Tuesday. 8.28.07 11:21 pm
I went to San Francisco for the weekend.
For the soundtrack to this entry, you can listen to the song "The Sound of San Francisco" on the ProjectPlaylist player to the left (it's at the end). Here are some of the highlights of the trip:
You can invent your own captions.
Flesh-Eating Cats (round 2)
Friday. 8.24.07 12:37 am
So the cat has gone a little insane. He keeps following me around like a dog. I mean-- even worse than a dog, since dogs usually eventually get tired of walking back and forth and settle in a heap on the ground. All the while he tangles himself in my legs as they try to walk, and rubs his body against any and all objects that we encounter. He purrs like mad in this wild, rumbling purr which seems to have no spaces for breath. He rolls around in ecstasy on the ground, letting his claws click in and out and trying to get me to pet him. Sometimes I oblige, if I'm not about to eat or if I'm not reading or leaving.
He's stopped trying to follow me into my room; he knows that is a forbidden zone. I praise him heartily for this new trick.
Then today I was reading my book at the dinner table when he came over and began his purring, sliding, fawning behavior. I bent down to pet him and he rolled over on his back. I started petting his belly. All of his feet came towards my hand. I pet him one last time and started to take my hand away, but he snatched with his front claws and brought it quickly to his mouth, where he bit down hard.
"OW!! [expletive!] WHAT THE [expletive!] was THAT. WHAT THE [expletive!] are you thinking, you [expletive!]!!" I yelled. He had run off under the table and now he came back. He jumped at my leg, claws flashing, slashing my leg. Luckily I had a pair of thick khakis on and barely even felt the attack.
I shooed him away and went into my room to cool off. When I emerged he came over and rubbed against my legs, purring. He has been purring non-stop ever since, and following me wherever I go, weaving in and out between my ankles.
I don't know what's going to happen, but my guess is that this round goes to the cat. Again. I think he's been eating epsom salt. I hid the bag. Maybe Epsom salt makes you have multiple personalities.
Zanzibar: 0, Cats: 3
Zanzibar v. the Cats: Day 1
Tuesday. 8.21.07 9:44 pm
My roommate is gone for a little more than a week. During this time, I intend to train her cats. Accomplishing this task will require all of my cunning.
The first day of training went thusly:
I have been trying to train the cats to keep out of my room, aka, "Cat-Free Space". Making the room verboten has succeeded in imbuing it with an air of desirability enough to drive them mad to get inside. They have been clawing at the door during the night. The door is ill-fitting, so it must be firmly closed or they can push it open. This morning I waited patiently for them to claw at the door. At exactly the right moment I slammed my hand against the other side of the door. I could hear them skittering down the hall in terror.
Zanzibar: 1, Cats: 0
After shutting them out of the bathroom, I took a cold shower (as our hot water still isn't on). To teach them an important lesson about walking in the bathtub, I filled the tub up with about an inch of water. I also laid patches of water around the sink. My trap set, I opened the door to the bathroom. The cat sat there. It meekly looked up at me, asking permission to enter the bathroom. It submissively sunk to the ground and rolled over. Ha-ha! At last, the respect I required! I felt a rush of love for the cat, and I petted it indulgently and allowed it into the bathroom.
Zanzibar: 2, Cats: 0
Then I saw my door. Ajar. Inside- cat prints on my fragile fossil. Cat prints on the second shelf around my fragile clock. Then the ultimate insult: dirty little cat prints and cat hair on the BED.
Zanzibar: 1, Cats: 1
When I arrived home the bathtub was mysteriously empty of water, the water had evaporated from the sinktop, and there were cat prints in the bathtub. I got out the Fantastic.
Zanzibar: 1, Cats: 2
THIS IS NOT OVER. Their owners, (Thalweg and G) may love them too much to discipline them, but they underestimate me... I don't love them. The only love I have for them is tough love. I will shape them into respectable cats.
Stay tuned for round 2....
Volcanoes, Romans, Mars, and Cars
Monday. 8.20.07 8:38 pm
In other news, I'm reading a book called "Pompeii" about a Roman engineer whose job it is to figure out what is wrong with the Aqueduct that feeds all of the towns around Mount Vesuvius. (DUN DUN DUN!!!) As you might imagine, building towns in places without water can be dangerous if there is any chance that the water source might fail. See: Every town in Southern California. This book is pretty awesome because it is told in very modern language, which sounds a little anachronistic, but it helps to show the similarities between the times of the Romans and the times of today. If there is one thing I learned from that archaeology exhibit I went to in Barcelona, it's that the Romans really had it all. Sewage, indoor plumbing, hot water, art, music, you name it, the Romans had it. Ok, maybe not electricity. Only by seeing how amazing the Romans were can you truly appreciate why they call the age after the Romans "The Dark Ages".
There are a lot of similarities between the Romans and America, really. Did you know that most people had to sign up to be oarsmen for 20 years in order to be granted Roman citizenship? And furthermore that people DID it, clamored to do it, even though people didn't live nearly as long back then? In order to be an American citizen, you often have to wait for 14 years. And people do it. They're just lucky we invented other ways to power our ships. Really, the society of the Romans and the society of today are eerily similar in many ways. Sure there are probably more similarities with some of the more imperialistic societies, like the British Empire. This book is marvelous for me because it combines a good story, history, archaeology, and geology! I love volcanoes!!!
In other other news, here is what they did to my gorgeous and beloved car:
Sunday. 8.19.07 12:23 am
Ok, so there are two camps among planetary explorers such as myself: we'll call them the "Pussy-Footed Protectors" and the "Soldiers of Fortune".
The people from the Planetary Protection Society are charged with the mission to protect the planets from the advances of humankind and preserve their purity as scientific sites (aka, no nuking the moon!). Take the example of Lake Vostok, for example. Lake Vostok is a gigantic lake that lies miles beneath the Antarctic Ice. It can be seen by ice-penetrating radar, but no one has ever dug down far enough to actually come into contact with the lake. In fact, the lake is under so much ice, that it has been in contact with the surface of the earth for maybe a million years.
There is very likely life down there, as we have found life in every other environment on the earth, and this environment has plentiful liquid water to provide a habitat. However, the forms of life that live in the lake have been separated from all other kinds of life for thousands of years. In normal ecosystems, separations of populations because of physical barriers (think islands) can result in pretty dramatic differences and rapid speciation. The life in Lake Vostok is a gold mine for evolutionary biology... a chance to see how life might have gone differently.
Recently the Russians have developed and employed drilling equipment capable of drilling all the way through the ice and into Lake Vostok. They stopped about 300ft short of penetrating the lake. Why? Because the drill bit isn't sterile. In addition to being dirty from dirt, oil, grease, freon (to keep the hole from freezing) etc, it is guaranteed that the drill bit is contaminated with some kind of organisms from the surface. If these organisms were introduced to Lake Vostok, it's possible that they would proliferate and destroy all of the native species that live there now before anyone got the chance to properly study them. So what does that mean, then? Are we just going to stop and never drill into Lake Vostok to see what happened? Should we just keep drilling, thinking that all in all we'll contaminate the lake only a little bit so a little sacrifice of some of the native life is worth the information we'll get out? Are we ethically bound to respect the life that lives in the lake-- even to the point of never disturbing it at all and thus never knowing?
Right now the plan is to wait on it. Scientists are confident that at some point in the future a method of "clean drilling" will be devised so that the drill bit can be sterilized and can work without pumping freon and aviation fuel down into the hole. This might be done by melting, but we wouldn't really wanting to significantly heat up the lake, either. So the project has been put on hold for an undetermined amount of time. If you recall my long-winded entries on the history of the Rhine, this would be akin to saying, "Let's not try to adjust the flow and course of the river, because we're not very good at hydrological engineering. We should probably just wait until our children or our children's children get better at hydrological engineering and then maybe they can try."
Some people say this might have been a better thing to do, but we'll never know. It's equally possible that the loss of those hundred years of commerce would have made modern-day industrialized Germany completely impossible (i.e., there would have been no coal industry in the Ruhr Valley and German's advanced chemical factories might never have cropped up, taking away the industrial heart of Germany itself!
Lake Vostok is a good Earth analog to Jupiter's moon Europa. Just like Vostok, Europa is thought to have a large body of water that lies beneath an icy shell (though they're still arguing over how thick the shell is). It remains liquid water partially from the pressure of the overlying ice, and partially from geothermal heat, on Europa caused by the way the moon gets flexed and kneaded because of the pull of Jupiter and the passing of its other large moons. One hope of the planetary community is that we can develop and test our instruments on Lake Vostok and then take these instruments with us to Europa. Because if life exists on Europa, it would have been separated from life on Earth for more than one million years. It would have been charting its own course of evolution since the beginning of the Solar System- since the beginning of life itself. The scientists don't want to run the risk of contaminating it, even if that means they'll die before ever knowing if there is life Out There.
So on Mars we're having this little battle because we've figured out that running water once flowed on the Martian surface. Recently some of us have claimed that here or there, depending on conditions, liquid water still runs on the surface. These would be the key places to look for extant life, if it exists at all. In fact, if anything, the places where water could still run today are increasing in number. Recently my advisor contended that a very common feature on parts of Mars is made by seeping liquid water. However, this theory made the Planetary Protectionists very worried. Now they want to designate the entire planet of Mars as a "special region". That means that there is no way that any space craft could land on the red planet without first going through a sterilization process that costs 50 MILLION DOLLARS. Tacked onto the back of sometimes already billion dollars missions, this extra cost makes almost every mission we've planned impossibly expensive.
So basically we'd never get to explore the planet. Ironically we've been searching for life, but just when we think it might be more likely that we could find it, because we think we might be likely to find it, we are no longer allowed to look for it. They're call off the search because they're afraid that we might find what we've always been looking for.
Other people say this: Ok. So here is Mars... it's a random piece of rock floating in space. The only reason it's important is because we're interested in studying it. Why does it matter if there is life on Mars or not if we're not going to find it out? What importance does this random life in the middle of nowhere Milky Way have if nobody ever finds it?
Do we give the potential Martian life its importance, or does all life just inherently have importance, that we should respect? It seems like most godless scientists would say that the life is only really important because we're looking for it. But their are a lot of scientists leading the charge to "protect it". Why? Is it the lovely dovey hippie attitude that many scientists buy into, that life is important for some unknown reason like that we all come from Mother Earth? What is the name of the philosophy that holds that despite a profound disbelief in God that all life forms are still sacred? What authority bestows their equality? How can we even talk about equality when they are all just differently adapted species in the throes of evolution with no significance or cosmic importance at all?
Some of the scientists that see this philosophical inconsistency insist that they only want to protect the planet so that future scientists with more sterile techniques won't find their study areas contaminated by those foolish turn-of-the-century explorers that came first and botched the job (like introducing rabbits to Australia).
Eighteenth-Century-Manifest-Destiny Zanzibar says "Go for it! What's the point of having planets if we don't get to explore them! How much contamination could we possibly bring?? (ans: a lot more than you'd think). God made the universe so that we could explore it and colonize it. Let's TERRAFORM THE great big red S.O.B! (for glory, god and gold and the Virginia Company!)
The other half of me doesn't really care if we find life or not and thinks it doesn't really matter, nor will it change in the least the general way in which she leads her life.
The third half of me recalls how I get angry about stupid archaeologists digging up people's sacred grave sites and throwing their bones all over the place in the name of the scientific search for information and I think that we should just mind our own business for once. But the difference there of course is that we know that those people who are dead were once living creatures, and that they expressly didn't want people to disturb their eternal peace. On Mars we have no idea if this life even exists, and if it does- what if it wants to be found?
Meanwhile we're desperately backtracking and trying to cast doubt upon our own theory so that they'll stop roping off the entire planet and let us go to random boring places, and possibly even send human beings (those filthy, microbe-ridden creatures!) They're still roping off anywhere where we could possibly find life. So we return again to the question: if we can't go to the places where there might be life, why are we going at all? Cheers if you made it through that whole entry. I'd love to know what you think about it, and what deep, fabric-of-the-universe philosophical outlook you are using to inform your decision.
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