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
Saturday. 3.29.14 12:38 am
I just got a ticket to Hawaii.
I'm going to be there for the entire month of May, studying volcanoes and sand dunes and hanging out. My mind is pretty much blown.
From Russia With Love
Friday. 3.28.14 11:07 am
This email from my Russian friend Victor to all of the people in our former office in Paris (who were Spanish, Catalan, Chilean, Italian, French, and Chinese) was too hilarious not to share here:
Hi! ¡Hola! Ciao! Salut! 你好! Valencia!
How you doing and where are you now? I hope everything is fine with you!
Anaïs, how is your PhD?
My country is slowly increasing, but not fast enough! Anyway I suggest to everybody start training to drink vodka and play balalaika and learning all these crazy Russian songs.
Me and my comrades will go to Vienna to check whether Austria is ready to join us.
I'll be there from 26 April to 3 May. Are any of you going to go on EGU?
I miss you all, my friends!
The Wind in the Turbines
Tuesday. 3.25.14 12:16 am
I found some pretty sweet wind models online. You download them and then you can pick where you are in the world and they'll give you high resolution terrain topography, roughness constants, and general regional boundary winds to feed into your model. Microscale (10s of meters) wind modeling is big these days because everyone wants to be able to site their wind turbines. The models have their highest resolution in Europe, of course, because all of those Danish people just go nuts over a good wind turbine. I just want a microscale wind model so that I can characterize wind in Beacon Valley, the coldest and driest of the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Being there is practically like being on Mars.
Who are we kidding-- I want to site a wind turbine just as much as the rest of them.
I love studying wind over complex surfaces. I did a project one time where we had to model wind flowing around some buildings in a square-- we were supposed to make a fountain whose flux was linked with the reading from an anemometer (wind measurement device) on a nearby rooftop so that the fountain could be large and spectacular when the wind was low, and small and conservative when the wind was high, to keep the people in the square from getting wet. It required us to model how the wind would change between the rooftop of the building and the fountain. It was pretty complicated: nature abhors a square. We had an econ major in our group who decided to mathematically model the mental trade-off that the people in the square would make, assuming that they would assent to a certain statistical amount of getting wet in return for a more spectacular fountain. In practice I think I would have just linked the anemometer readings with the fountain regulation device using a simple conversion, and then fiddled with it for a while until it seemed to work in a satisfactory way.
That's why theorists just don't get along with experimentalists.
On the Day You Were Born
Wednesday. 3.5.14 4:04 am
My Dear Nephew Jacob,
To begin your life with the beginning of your life, I record that you were born on a Tuesday, sometime after seven o'clock at night.
That day I was preparing an application for post-doc in Germany. I had to print out numerous copies of papers and lists, attach them all with a binder clip, and send them physically in an envelope to the country of Germany. This will seem amusingly archaic to you, and indeed, even in the year 2014 it is something which is almost never done anymore. That day I was also arranging to renew my passport, as I am intending to travel to China in July. The woman told me in the Walgreens that I was permitted to smile, but not with my teeth. Having practiced only two possible picture-taking modes (smiling and unsmiling) and having never truly smiled without my teeth, the expression upon my face in the picture is a bit strange and confused. It is the last picture taken of me before I became an aunt. By the time I will have to replace it, you will be ten years old.
That day I made two large batches of brownies for your grandmother, who, of course, I had never thought of as a grandmother before that day. They are the most delicious brownies in the world, Jacob, and you will surely taste them by and by when you have the requisite teeth required to eat them. She needed them for work, and she wasn't sure she would have time to make them later, because we had no idea how long it would take for you to make your way into the world. Grandpa and Grandma were on tenterhooks all day, waiting for you, worrying about their baby who is your mother, hoping at any moment to hear that you were born and that you were healthy and alive.
Aunt Katherine and I weren't worried about you or your mother at all. This was probably more due to our ignorance of the whole process than our steely calm dispositions. I was mostly returning emails and learning to play "The Entertainer" on the piano. You should ask me if I still know how to play it and Grandpa and I will teach you how. You should convince your mother to relearn how to play the "Tarantella" which we all loved to hear her play when she was a child.
Aunt Katherine was at work at the library in Castle Rock. Grandma was working at the library in Highlands Ranch, where she the manager. Grandpa was hard at work at the warehouse, worrying about his baby-girl. He went out to buy the newspaper so that we would know what was going on in the world when you were born. Last I heard, Russia was invading Ukraine. I was at home, being unemployed. You kindly stayed in your mother's womb for long enough for me to get back from my job interview in California.
At last we got the call that you were getting serious about joining us in the world (around 3 pm). Grandma couldn't take it anymore, and dashed off to Fort Collins. I went to the post office to mail the aforementioned post-doc and passport applications, and chatted with the man at the counter who had also been in California last week. He had been at the horse track, and all he could talk about was one famous horse-trainer that I didn't know. I mentioned to him (as I had been mentioning to everyone) that my nephew was being born that day, but all he cared to talk about was the horsetrack, so I gave him my packages and bid him farewell. It was a beautiful day for errands.
We had to wait until well after five for Aunt Katherine to get home from work so that we could go up and join Grandma in the waiting room. Grandpa was as worried as could be, but I was placidly content to play The Entertainer, pay my last French cell phone bill, and join the International Society for Aeolian Research. Membership comes with a magazine, and if you wish to be a member, I will certainly sponsor you, my dear nephew. If you should know anything it about the world, it should be that Aeolian Science is one of the most interesting sciences that exists.
At last Aunt Katherine arrived home and was surprised to learn that we were driving immediately up to Fort Collins. She rather thought that we would wait a while and come to see you on the weekend when you'd had several days to process the world on your own. But NAY! Up we went. By this time it had begun raining, and the closer we got to Fort Collins, the more it rained. We stopped at McDonald's where a regular cheeseburger costs $1.50 and most of the other burgers cost $1. It's almost St. Patrick's day, so they have a special mint shake for sale, which apparently delicious but over 600 calories. We tried to guess what your name would be. We guessed Jacob. Your mother has always wanted to call you Jacob, since before you even started to think about existing. You weren't named Jacob Christopher-- too bad, because we could have called you JC, just like your mother's favorite member of the boyband NSYNC. Grandpa said that if your name was Jacob he would call you Big Jake, after the movie with John Wayne. We don't really know how big you're going to be, but you'll be Big Jake no matter what.
At last a text from your dad!!!!! Baby and mother, doing well!!! Grandpa visibly relaxed. He had been even more worried than we had thought. We listened to the Black Eyed Peas and a CD of Republican jams as we drove along in Grandpa's big new black truck.
Finally we arrived at the hospital, in the dark, in the rain. They directed us to the maternity ward where we found Grandma, still waiting. They let us go in to see you and your parents, and the room was like a palace!!! It looked more like a hotel room than a hospital room, but there it was! The place that you were born! Your mama looked so adorable under her little blanket. She was still my big sister, you may be assured, but she seemed now somehow so much older, in terms of life experiences, happily sitting there under that blanket having baked a perfect little tiny body inside of her own for all of those months. I wanted to give her a big ol' hug for being such a hero, but she was lying down. It was worth all of these weeks of uncertain unemployment so that I could be there in that moment. And you! You, my nephew Jacob! You were so tiny! Your little perfect red face and your little perfect purple hands, with little perfect fingernails. The nurse said that you were a beautiful baby. She said that she definitely did not say that to everyone. Grandma was buzzing around the room, trying to be as helpful as possible and taking pictures. Your mama was sipping water out of her favorite water bottle and getting ready to eat a well-deserved supper (a hamburger). Your papa was beaming. Aunt Katherine has spent a lot of time the last couple of years taking care of babies, and you could tell, the way she expertly picked you up and cradled you in her arms. I didn't have very much experience with babies. I felt like someone was going to tell me to sit down in a chair so that they'd be sure I wouldn't drop you or break you in half. But I got the hang of it. You were so cute, with your little button nose and your almost non-existent golden eyebrows. Sometimes you would crack your eyes open to get a look at me. All of us are sure that you will grow up to be a handsome saintly genius. It will be hard to get out of the habit of calling you "Splinter". Jacob. Jacob. Big Jake. It was a big day, Big Jake. You did well.
On the way home, the rain turned to snow and the snow was outrageous. It was some of the worst driving conditions I have ever been in in my life. I was driving one car and Grandpa was driving the other, I-25. I thought we all might die only having met you once, but I kept my steely calm. The big giant flakes flew into the windshield. I couldn't see any of the lines. I drove by the light reflected in the tire indentations of the cars that had gone before. And I wrote this little poem for you, my nephew:
On the night that you were born, the whole family was praying
Well, starting at 4 am that morning, cause it took a while (just saying)
On the night that you were born, you were bathed in a loving glow
And the skies themselves celebrated with a confetti made of snow
On the night that you were born, I thought Grandma and I would end up in a ditch
Because on the night that you were born, boy, it was snowing like a bitch
On the night that you were born, you were calm and did not cry
And the dancing coyotes in the yard sang you a coyote lullaby
On the night that you were born, we made brownies- we didn't need much persuasion
Welcome to the family, boy, brownies for every occasion!
On the night that you were born, every face was ringed with mirth
Happy to have you, to see you, to love you, and to welcome you to Earth!
Tuesday. 2.11.14 11:19 pm
I was never really attracted to older guys-- except Mike, that is.
Mike was a youth leader for our church camp.
He was in college.
He played the guitar, of course. It has to be some kind of requirement for hot, college youth leaders to play the guitar. But none of those where the reasons that I liked Mike.
Nah, I liked Mike because Mike was always dancing. Mike was never still, he was always in his groove. He danced all the time, even when there wasn't any music playing. Especially when there wasn't any music playing. Mike grooved through the 12 hours that we spent on the bus from Denver to Minnesota. Mike grooved through the five hours that we spent broken down in some random gas station in some place like Deer Point, South Dakota. When other people were exhausted, or irritated, or gossiping, or flirting, Youth Leader Mike just had his groove on. He was imperturbable.
As soon as my time at church camp came to an end, my schoolgirl crush on Mike faded, but the impression that he left on my life was everlasting.
Thanks, erstwhile Mike, for your contagious groove.
That time when Zanzibar applied for jobs and didn't get them
Thursday. 2.6.14 7:55 pm
Tuesday. 1.21.14 10:24 am
Well, I'm leaving France on Thursday. A tumultuous time. So tumultuous, in fact, that I have to get back to packing now.
My boss is going to drive me to the airport. Cool.
The Case of the Missing Neighbor: The Plot Thickens
Saturday. 1.11.14 4:18 am
Well, I decided to go talk to the building manager. I couldn't find him for several days, so I wrote a note and I left it in his mailbox. I told him that I was worried that the woman might have died in her apartment and to call me immediately. I left my telephone number. On my way back to my apartment, I decided to drop in at the tailor's. When you enter my building you have to pass through a courtyard and the tailor shop is in the courtyard. I have no idea how they get any customers, because there is no sign on the street, and you have to pass through a door with a code to get there, but they seem to be busy all the time. Since they sit right there in the courtyard, they see everyone come and go. I thought they might have some information. I am friends with the assistant tailor, Mounaim, a Moroccan. So I went in and asked about the woman. Mounaim didn't have any idea, he knew that he hadn't seen her in a while, and he thought that she was gone somewhere. He said he thought that her son came and got her. I told him about how all of her disability benefit checks and gas bills are in her mailbox, and he shrugged. "Yeah, if she were there she would have come to pick those up," he said.
The head tailor walked in at this point, and we caught him up on the story.
"Ah yes," he said, in a French heavily accented with Arabic. "She's gone. Did you know she had a son?" I did, I said, but I didn't know that they were in contact. "Did you know that he was living there with her?" I didn't.
Apparently the son hadn't come to get her--- she had gone to get her son. He was severely handicapped-- it sounded like perhaps mentally and physically-- and he was living in a home. She had gone and fetched him and she was tending to him in her apartment. Except for the fact that she's almost unable to tend for her self: her teeth are rotting, her clothes are dirty and don't fit, she forgets to close her zippers, etc. Apparently she had been taking care of her son in a similar way. I don't know if anyone knew that her son was living there, but the neighbors had been complaining about how dirty and horrible the woman was, and eventually the police from the 6ème came and evicted her, taking her son, who was filthy and unshaven, back to the home. The tailor didn't know what had happened to the old woman, only that they had changed the lock on her apartment so that she couldn't get back in.
That must have also been why they changed the code on the door unexpectedly one day a couple of months ago.
That was a lot more information than I had had before, and it weirdly lined up with the woman's story. She had said that the Tunisians on the third floor kept offering to buy both of her apartments, and they were mad when she refused. She said that it was they who had changed the locks on the tiny apartment on the 6th floor, and if they got their way, they would have her out of her big apartment, too. She said they drove the old woman on the second floor to her grave trying to buy her apartment. She said that they were in league with the police from the 6ème. All of these people, in league against a poor old handicapped woman, she had said. Same story, different perspective.
They had no idea where the old woman had gone, and it was kind of shocking the degree to which neither of them cared. It all happened over a year ago, he said. He didn't see it personally, but he heard about it. "Oh, it wasn't nearly as long as a year ago," I protested.
"You're a friend of hers?" the tailor said, not really believing that I would be. "Well," I qualified, "we used to often talk in the stairwell." I decided to tell them the story about how the people were trying to steal her associated maid's apartment on the 6th floor. "I know that she wasn't popular in the building," I said. "It sounds like it was right to take her son away, but I don't know why they would have also evicted her. I just wanted to know the whole truth."
"Sometimes we can never know the whole truth," said Mounaim mysteriously. The head tailor shrugged. He seemed to think that I should forget about the whole thing.
I still haven't heard from the building manager. Neither apartment has been touched. Weirdly, the landing on the first floor smells worse and worse every day.
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