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
A Small Thought on the Fourth Dimension
Tuesday. 11.19.13 1:44 pm
"Let us assume that the three dimensions of space are visualized in the customary fashion, and let us substitute a color for the fourth dimension. Every physical object is liable to changes in color as well as in position. An object might, for example, be capable of going through all shades from red through violet to blue. A physical interaction between any two bodies is possible only if they are close to each other in space as well as in color. Bodies of different colors would penetrate each other without interference... If we lock a number of flies into a red glass globe, they may yet escape: they may change their color to blue and are then able to penetrate the red globe." --- Hans Reichenback, The Philosophy of Space and Time, 1927.
It's My Personality That's The Killer
Saturday. 11.16.13 8:25 pm
Tonight I went out to a bar and met some weird people.
They were part of Paris' golden upper crust, the children of the wealthy, and they did whatever they wanted. First we went to a boy's father's apartment, which was at least seven times the size of mine. It was decorated with incredibly famous art, coincidentally painted by the boy's grandmother and grandfather, who are so famous that I will not put their names on this blog lest it make my blog googleable. The boy's father usually comes and smokes weed with his son's house guests, but not today. The father is being sued for something and it puts him in a bad mood.
We spent 45 minutes looking for a rentable electric car to drive, because the boy's 1960s classic car (very cute, nice in the summer) had been in the shop for 5 months and he was selling his scooter. We wanted to take the metro. He wanted to try another car stand. We wanted to take the metro. He wanted to take a taxi. If we had taken the metro, we would have already been there. He hasn't taken the metro in seven years. That's a lot of years for someone who can't be more than 25. He knows nothing about the metro. I had assumed that there were people who were too rich to take the metro, but I never thought I would meet one.
When we finally arrive we are at a birthday party for someone we don't know. She has rented out the whole bar, and there is a person manning a table at the entrance. They recognize the boy, though, so it is fine. He brought her a present-- his mom had bought it. It was a fur stole, because that's apparently what people give people for their birthdays. She loves it. She has a table of presents filled with beautiful necklaces and antique bookends. It's weird to give a fur stole to someone who you don't know very well, isn't it? he asks. We don't know. His mom had made him drive her all around Paris, and wait 45 minutes for her outside Louis Vuitton, or Chanel, or all of the other stores in the Place de Vendome. She even made him run around and open the door for her when she came back. He's her son, he says, not her driver. The kids in the bar are controlling the music from an iphone. Between each song is a long silence while whoever is paying attention searches for a new song. Boys are making out with boys and then turning around and grinding with girls. The South American guy is moving his hips and all of the girls are paying attention. They break about three glasses while I'm watching them. I try not to watch them too closely. They do whatever they want all the time. Their lives must be much more complicated than mine, I think. A guy asks me out and then he asks me that question I hate:
"Why hasn't anyone swept you up yet?"
"Oh, I dunno, maybe I lure guys in with my looks and then as soon as they learn more about me they run the other direction."
"Oh, I dunno, maybe I'm a serial killer and every guy I've ever dated didn't last longer than a week."
What are you trying to achieve with that question? What kind of information are you trying to get out of me? I'm single, ok, if you want me to explain my many personality traits that work together to make this a reality then we could be here all night.
But we can't be here all night, because the beautiful young rich people are changing bars. This place is dead, they say.
"I'm going to head home," I say.
"Me too..." says one of my fellow scientists.
"...this night has been really weird."
Sunday. 11.10.13 4:56 pm
We are in a boring seminar. I draw eyes on the side of my hand and my thumb starts mouthing words to M. He feeds my hand a pencil, which it gobbles up in an instant. He tucks his thumb under his index finger to make a similar creature, but does not bother to draw any eyes. He starts running his hand into my spare elbow. "What is he doing?" I ask. "Shhhhh..." he says, looking at me like I've made a terrible gaffe. "He's blind."
Viktor the Siberian: I've been gone only a few weeks, and when I come back someone has taken my monitor, someone has taken my desk.
Me: That's what happens when you're not around... you can't defend your desk.
Viktor: I should have put a guard dog there while I was gone, on a chain.
Me: Or a bear.
Viktor: Yes, then everyone would know it was Russian desk. During the day the bear could drink vodka, and at night it would make a little show, riding a bicycle. Ahhh... I used to have such a bear, when I was child.
I'm about to give a talk. I'm going through my slides. M comes and sits next to me. "I'd like to go through your slides with you before you give your talk," he says, authoritatively. I take him to the first slide. It is of some geological features on Mars.
"This---" he says, "looks like... an alligator. Next."
I flip to the next slide. "This one... looks like... sort of a guy, with his mouth open like O and that's his hair." He outlines in the air above my screen with a pencil.
I scroll through the slides and he tells me what he sees in each one. A man, a dragon, a lizard. "Those are my interpretations," he finally says, and he approves my presentation for delivery.
Saturday. 11.9.13 12:37 pm
I used to play this game all the time, DDR. Dance dance revolution, for the uninitiated. There are a bunch of arrows that go by on the screen, and you try to stamp on the "dance floor" or ground pad in the square that corresponds to the arrows on the screen. You start with easy songs, one arrow at a time, and work your way up to crazy, impossible songs with five arrows on each beat. The screen is filled with arrows, busting with arrows, arrows overwhelming the screen and pointing in every direction.
I played with my friends, and I found it interesting to watch them at the precise moment when the number of arrows became too much, and they essentially lost control of the game, lost count of the arrows, lost the cadence and then the rhythm. What followed was usually a kind of controlled train wreck that ended by losing the game. At this important breaking point, there were usually one of two responses: some people would stop altogether, take a deep breath, and begin again. Others would helplessly bat at squares, just after the beat, trying to get every other arrow on the screen, focusing on one or two directions and trying to get at least these arrows, etc. These people often looked panicked and harried, and it took them longer to get back on the beat. But the people who stopped, composed themselves, and continued often lost. The game rewards you for arrows met. It rewards you slightly less for correct arrows slightly off beat. It really kills you for strings of unmet arrows. So while desperate arrow punching seemed harried and stupid, it tended to be a better strategy because while you still suffered losses, the hole you were digging was not inescapably deep.
In DDR and in life, I've always been a sort of a harried arrow presser, batting down problems like whack-a-moles, combating stress by doing at least half of what was required, or doing everything slightly out of phase, so that even if things weren't done right, they were at least *done*.
I'm still sort of randomly tapping work arrows, doing just enough in all four directions that my remaining life bar stays just barely in the green, but feel like I've kind of been falling off the wagon in terms of my friendships, especially since the beginning of October. In the last couple of weeks I've felt like I've gone to bed, pulled the covers over my head, and let unmet arrows flow by in a torrent of flashing animations and j-pop music.
It's led me to the point where I should probably make some phone calls or write some emails, but how do you begin such emails?
"Hey, so it's been a while--- how's that whole 'marriage falling apart thing' going??"
"Hey bff! Cool email about finally hanging out with the crush you've had for years! Sorry for the slow response, I've been really busy eating oreos, sleeping and playing the bodhran! You are a treasured friend!"
"Hey, so did your ex-boyfriend ever kill himself or what?"
"Hey, thanks for the email three months ago about having new baby twins! I'm really excited about this new stage in your life, which you can clearly tell by the priority that I assigned to writing you back!"
"Hey, thanks for taking the time to write that really long email helping my friend find a new job. You probably don't remember writing it, because you haven't heard from me in 12 days, but it was great!"
"Hey, I wanted to get back to you about that serious life decision advice you asked me about.... I kind of assume that by now you've made the decision already, so I guess that's less work for me! lol!"
"Hey, I got your email about wanting to talk to me on the phone about something important. Could you just text me whatever you wanted to say? I'm really busy listening to Taylor Swift and cooking frozen pizzas in a frying pan."
Start watching at about 0:58.
The ironic thing is that I've been paying lots of attention to my physically present friends (I went to church like FOUR TIMES this week), which is a big part of the reason that I've been falling behind on my correspondence with friends who are farther away. Or so I tell myself. The days that I wasn't at church I just lay in my bed staring blankly at my wall until it was late enough to go to sleep. But here I am on Nutang, saying hello to all of my Nutang buddies that I have neglected. Sorry Nutang buddies. :3 You are my treasured friends.
Me, Space Philosopher?
Sunday. 10.27.13 8:26 am
My church just told me that they have a hole in their weekly philosophy series schedule, and that if I want I can give a talk about space and extra dimensions and metaphysics. Whaaaaat? I have to send them an outline of what I want to talk about so that they can approve it.
DO YOU THINK THEY WOULD REALLY LET ME TALK ABOUT SPACE AND METAPHYSICS, GUYS??????!?!?! IT WOULD BE LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE!!!!!!
K BYE I HAVE TO READ MORE ABOUT UNIVERSE TOPOLOGY
Other People's Minds
Tuesday. 10.22.13 5:45 pm
“I read an article about a woman who tried out a new kind of neural network,” I say. “She was supposed to do something that she had never done, in this case shoot a gun, both with and without the neural network in place. You know, because the study took place in America.” I can’t see him, but I hear him laugh.
“In her article she said, ‘You know that voice that’s in your head all the time that says ‘You’re terrible at this, you’re terrible at this, you’re embarrassing yourself, stop stop stop’? When I was wearing the neural network the voice stopped completely.’ Suddenly she could concentrate on her task and her marksmanship went way, way up. The effect of the neural net lasted for a few days but then the voice slowly came back. I found the article fascinating because the woman assumed that everyone had that voice in their head. Only--- I don’t.”
“You don’t?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Nah—when I try something new I think, ‘you are not very good at this because you are just beginning, but if you practice a lot you will get better.’ I think there are a lot of people who do have this voice though, who live all of the time with this kind of overbearing, overwhelming negative self-talk.”
“When do you think having more than one voice in your head becomes an actual problem?” he asks neutrally.
I shrug. I’ve thought a lot about this problem. I say that maybe it’s when you can’t tell whether or not the voice belongs to you anymore.
He has lots of voices in his head, he says. They argue with each other all the time. When he is speaking, one voice says, “Oh, you should talk about this.” Another voice says, “MAKE SURE TO ADD THIS!” Another voice says, “You should probably say it a different way.” The voice that comes out of his mouth, he says, which he calls the spokesperson of his brain, tries to deal with all of these intersecting voices in order to make coherent sentences, but the result is sometimes a way of speaking that sounds rather scatter-brained. He thinks that maybe having many voices in your head only becomes a real problem when your spokesperson voice starts losing his power to control the others, or he starts to let them speak straight to the world instead of managing them.
He says that some people have a warehouse in their minds, but he tends to keep things in randomly oriented stacks. He thinks he has a good idea of where he’s put everything in the stacks, but often he has to go rooting around trying to find some piece of information that got lost.
He says that sometimes a thought will take hold of him and not let go. It runs through his mind on a circular track. Each time it passes it gains speed, like a particle in a particle accelerator, until it is spinning around in his head so fast he can’t even control it any more. That’s what happens to his worries sometimes, he says.
He once said that he liked me because I seemed to radiate calm. Now I can see why. There is only one of me up here. It is very quiet inside my head. I tend to credit my belief in God for my general metaphysical calmness, but I think my head has been much quieter than most people’s before I ever really believed there was a God.
I still have thoughts that upset me; thought spirals which make me sad or angry. I still have thoughts that come into my head which I don’t care to think about. For the most part my head has the ability to dismiss them. I actually dismiss thoughts like school pupils. I read about it once, on a meditation website. “You’re dismissed,” I say to my unwanted thoughts, unemotional, passionless, and my unwanted thoughts fade away. If, before I sleep, I feel like my head is spinning away with thoughts like a top, I say a prayer, anything rote and soothing, and I imagine the top slowly precessing until it falls over and releases me to sleep. But my head hardly ever feels like a top anymore.
It’s very quiet in here.
Sometimes I have a hard time putting my eyes in focus; that’s when my mind goes on vacation and there is nobody in there at all.
“You should come and spend some time in my head,” I say.
“I doubt you would want to spend time in mine,” he says.
California Dreaming 2
Monday. 10.21.13 5:57 pm
Well I applied for a position as a professor at UC Santa Cruz.
Here's to a life on the beach~!
....to me and the other 100+ people who likely applied....
Thursday. 10.17.13 10:44 am
Well I was gone for two weeks in Turkey. People in the lab have been asking me about it since apparently M spent his time during my absence telling everyone that I was gone in Turkey and all of the details that he knew about my trip. My office mate said that he kept coming into our office to fret about how my lack of email contact surely translated into the fact that I had been kidnapped and beheaded by Islamo-terrorists.
Turkey was splendid. I recommend it to all of you. What I particularly liked about Turkey was that it had an extremely strong culture which was at once very different from Western culture and at the same time incredibly cultivated. On the radio there were traditional and contemporary songs, all in Turkish and with a distinctive Turkish style; on the television there were Turkish films, documentaries, sitcoms, and soap operas, reflecting the problems of ancient Turkish sultans and warriors all the way up to issues between modern Turkish couples. The museums were replete with intricate tile-work and expertly constructed textiles and metalworkings. The room holding the “crown jewels” went on and on, stretching into several rooms and then a whole wing, every artifact glittering with rubies and emeralds. I started to wonder if rubies and emeralds and diamonds were only rare because all of them were being kept here. Civilization abounded in Turkey, but the way that it manifested itself was different: heavy rugs in myriad patterns made the floor a luxurious place to dine; passengers on the all-night bus were treated to in-seat entertainment systems (with Turkish movies and music) and served tea and pastries from a small trolley every couple of hours. Luxury took the form of a Turkish bath, where, laid on a giant slab of white marble, we were given gentle scrubbings and soap massages, followed by a careful drying in fine Turkish bath towels. The most civilized part was the intense focus on human warmth and hospitality: no ‘self-check out’, no tipping expected, just a smiling and helpful person ready to attend to your every need, even if your hotel only cost 14 euros per night. The woman giving me my Turkish bath paid very careful attention to whether I had water about to drip into my eyes, or if a strand of my hair had gone astray. I felt like it did not matter what I had paid or how many services I had asked for- when I entered the Turkish bath someone loved and cared about me, with real, selfless affection, the way a mother cares for a small child. The difference between this sense of hospitality and that found in Parisian culture was shocking—I felt the way you feel when someone flicks on a light at dusk—that until the light had been turned on you hadn’t realized that you were sitting in darkness. I felt impressed the way I had been impressed by parts of China and Japan: here was a truly great cultural force, exquisitely civilized and modern, but not in a way which equated Western culture with either civilization or modernity.
In Naples I had felt a heavy and elevating sense of awe at the incredible society that had flourished in Naples several millennia ago, especially after I witnessed the orderly sewer system that had served the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. But I came away feeling as if the present-day Neapolitan people were essentially living in the ruins of this great civilization, priding themselves mostly on the accomplishments of their centuries’ old ancestors as the city fell to pieces and rubble around them.
In Turkey, by contrast, I could feel the quickening cadence of the Turkish heartbeat: I could see on every corner an enterprising merchant, an inventive shopkeeper, a person who not only recognized the greatness of the Turkish past, but who was very much invested in the greatness of the Turkish future. Even the poor street women, who in Paris would be begging, were usually selling packages of tissues: everyone in Turkey is a merchant, everyone in Turkey is trying to identify a marketplace niche and to fill it.
The society was surprisingly and pleasantly pluralistic-there were plenty of women who were veiled to various degrees, but it was perfectly suitable for any woman to wear whatever she pleased—we even saw a bevy of Russians walking around a world heritage site in bikinis, with no judgmental glances cast their way. Our host in Istanbul, Seval, was a fashionable and well-situated lawyer. She was the same age as me, unmarried but with a serious boyfriend from another country. The culture and civilization of Turkey may be exceptional, but the worries and stresses of a 29-year-old unmarried woman are universal. I had never done Couchsurfing before, but through Seval I was able to see what a gift it was to have a way to meet and experience the lifestyle of a girl like myself living in another land. Even the way she thought of geography was enlightening—Eastern Europe is mundane; St. Petersburg is just far away enough to be exotic; Kurds are not a political problem as much as they are family members, potential boyfriends, and friends.
The highlight of the trip was certainly our hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. We got a special deal and were two of eight passengers in the balloon. From the balloon we could see the three giant volcanoes which had contributed ash to the fanciful rock formations that make up most of the landscape of Central Anatolia. We flew at dawn with dozens of other balloons and came down an hour later in a pumpkin patch (we squashed a pumpkin).
Verdict: Let Turkey into the EU.
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