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
Monday. 8.12.13 10:56 am
Friday. 8.2.13 5:02 pm
No, not that kind of WASP, di-di, insect wasps.
I woke up around 9 as usual. The three wasp stings on my left arm, which had yesterday swollen my bicep by several inches, had morphed into an arm-full of tiny little itchy red dots. Now I'm not sure if I'm allergic to the wasp sting or the cream that I put on to soothe the wasp sting. As of this writing the spots have doubled in density and spread down my arm. Another bite of some kind appeared on my eyelid, which, as usual, swelled my eyelid to quasi-modo status. It didn't itch all day, but it itches now... LIKE A BITCH. The secretary wanted me to go to the doctor, but, hilariously, all of these things have happened before and they worked themselves out after a couple of days, so nbd.
In addition to the above, I came down with a terrible cold (in the SUMMER) so I've been coughing up a storm. This morning I coughed so hard that I pulled a muscle deep in my chest/back somewhere, and I couldn't pick up anything with my right hand for most of the day.
To top it all off, I got a gigantic zit right on the end of my nose. I put some Clearasil 4 hour cream on it, and it did the opposite of advertised-- that is, instead of making my zit visibly reduced in size and redness, it doubled it in size and make it bright red and white. Cool.
I went home at lunchtime in defeat. I worked from my apartment and swilled Perrier like a mofo to beat the heat. I'm addicted to Perrier. All the bubbles and fullness of a soda, with zero of the toothaches and calories. With all of my bubbly water I was feeling a bit too European, so I stopped by Mickey-D's for some cheeseburgers. I killed three wasps, including one that seemed like a queen of sorts. Or, from my research, maybe just a female FULL OF WASP EGGS. FUCKING WASPS. They should all die this summer because they are parasitic and I killed all of their hosts, but that isn't really soon enough anymore. I want to fumigate the whole place again but I have a GUEST coming next week and I don't really have time to air it out before then. I warned her that she might be stung by tiny wasps but she was unfazed. Seriously, though, my arm has the texture of a basketball.
After working I went to a movie by myself. It was a chick movie, you see, and I don't know any chicks who speak French who are not on vacation. It was called "Paris à Tout Prix" and it's about a fashion designer in Paris with Moroccan roots who gets deported because she forgot to renew her carte de séjour. Who among us hasn't been there, amirite? Anyway, you can see where this is going... she has to go back to her family's house and to become reacquainted with all of the roots that she had been trying to forget about while she was in Paris being fashionable and stuff. Enter hot Moroccan guy, a contest to design the perfect dress for the fashion show in three weeks... I pretty much knew what was going to happen after I saw the trailer, but that's why I went to see it.
She ends up reconciling with her family, making the perfect dress (inspired by Morocco, and with the help of her grandmother-who-taught-her-how-to-sew-originally), which wins her a coveted full-time job. Hot Moroccan guy falls in love with her and MOVES TO PARIS to be with her, they vacation all the time in Morocco, she gets everything she wants. I kinda doubt that if I went home to Denver and met a hot American boy that he would agree to move to Paris with me so that I could further my [atmospheric] modeling career. In all the American movies the girl has to go back to the countryside and live wherever the country boy wants to live. How is that fair? Anyway, one theme is that she doesn't want to give up her life in Paris because she busted her ass for ten years to get where she's gotten and if she moved back to Morocco it would have been just as good for her never to have left or busted her ass at all. I guess I can relate to that.
Reminds me of this song I used to listen to all the time in college:
Maybe Bon Jovi has some advice on this matter:
Thursday. 8.1.13 11:52 am
I liked to imagine the soul as an infinitesimal point which acted as a gateway into the infinite beyond. Through this gateway came all things that were good, all new things, all new thoughts that had never been thought and ideas that had never been imagined. The more room you left for this source, the stronger the flux would become. The traditional analogy is that between the soul and a pinprick of light.
There were always those certain, special people, those people who were brilliant, who lit up the whole room, shining from the inside out like Jesus rising to Heaven.
There were also those whose source was blocked. Perhaps a tiny trickle of light might sneak through, visible only in the absence of other light. These people were the grays of the world, rearrangers, reformatters, editors, who could occasionally see old things in new ways but could never add anything truly new.
Carolyn was a sink. Carolyn took the burbling, effervescent beauty of everyone around her and batted it down into ashes.
Her husband, once a shimmering beacon emitting a strange and wonderful light, had died down to a faint ember. Each time he tried to shine he was tamped down, covered up, suffocated. I dreaded the day that I knew was coming, the day when, with a tired and unremarkable silence,
the ember would go out.
This is a fragment that I wrote down on a random piece of paper. Now I can finally throw the piece of paper out.
Tuesday. 7.30.13 2:32 pm
There are some planets
around other stars
which have one side that always faces
On these planets
one side is always day
and the other side
is always night.
if there is any
from the day side
and condenses into ice
on the night side
Until there is no water left.
A cold wind blows
If you lived on such a planet
you would have to travel
across thousands of miles
and into the countries of darkness
to collect water to drink.
Plants could only be grown
in dawn countries
and dusk countries
using complicated systems of irrigation
from the Night Countries
in exchange for food.
Perhaps poor people who live in the Night
have never seen the daylight
Cannot imagine the daylight.
is a desert
not a time of day
Multi-Cultural Conversations Part IV
Saturday. 7.27.13 8:34 am
Chinese 1: Are there big differences between American and French men?
Me: Eh, well... American men are usually a bit bigger.
Chinese 1: Bigger than FRENCH men?? But French men are so big!
Chinese 1: Well, think about me and [Chinese 2]. [They are about my height, 5'4"] In China we are a normal size for men. In France we are so small... we cannot see in a crowd! If you tried to look for me, I would be lost! You couldn't find me!
Me: What do you think are the big differences between Chinese men and French men?
Chinese 1: Well, Chinese men are much smaller. They are [he makes some body language to represent "meekness"]... they are kind of like women, if you compare them. It seems like Chinese women want a Western man because he is big, can protect them maybe.
Me: And are the Chinese guys like, "Heyyyy!"
Chinese 1: Yeah.
Me: But at least Chinese guys are very polite.
Chinese 1: Maybe......
Il faut chaud
Thursday. 7.25.13 12:23 pm
It's hot. I'm melting. The sun is eating my legs, micron by micron. My skin is sticky. I put my hair away, it no longer exists. My foot cramps up every ten minutes like clockwork. The fools across the hallway have it worse. Their office faces a fiery stellar orb with a surface temperature of 10,000 degrees. They put ice cubes in front of the fan. Now there is a bath of tepid water in front of the fan, and the room is 35 degrees (95 F) by M's kitchen thermometer.
An email forwarded by the lab manager from the highest possible levels warns us of the dangers of working in the unyielding heat. The first sign of approaching death from heat stroke: muscle cramps.
I've had enough. It's time for the Oreo. The one, singular Double Stuf Mint Oreo remaining in the cupboard. It is time. A little glass filled with 1/3 the remaining cool milk from the refrigerator. I submerge the green and black vehicle of salvation until my fingers sense the phase change from a solid to a saturated granular medium and then it is MINE, MINE, and all of the sensations of a cool ski slope in winter flood my brain and esophagus with delight until it is over.
The heat returns.
Tuesday. 7.23.13 12:50 pm
I don't know what to do with my life.
I guess everyone has to go through this crisis at some point... most people probably go through it after college... or after grad school. I managed to postpone the crisis until now by always knowing what the next step was.
I guess it isn't so bad. I know that I want to research planets for the rest of my life. I love researching planets. I love geology. Space. Stuff like that. So that part isn't hard. But how do I get from my random post-doc in the world's most beautiful city to a full-time planetary research position/professor? Well, I have to go through this time of UNCERTAINTY, and I have to very shortly make a bunch of decisions which could propel me on very different paths. I basically have a year to kill during which I have to apply for a million things and play a giant game of wait-and-see. During this dead year I somehow have to pay the rent... somewhere. I also have to look like I'm "doing something" so that I won't have a hole in my goddamned beautiful résumé which I've worked my whole life to perfect.
I also have to contend with the fact that the best decisions I could make professionally might not be the best *life* decisions, which before now wasn't really a factor that I paid any attention to during my decision-making process.
I also probably have to leave the world's most beautiful city, where I currently live in the world's most ideal apartment. My friends here are so damn happy and well-adjusted. When was the last time I had happy and well-adjusted friends? I really have to go somewhere else and make all new friends? Can't I stay here and just keep the friends I have?
At Pomona College the air has a weird, hazy, golden quality. Probably because of suspended particulate matter from LA, but whatever. When I lived there the weather was always perfect. The physics building smelled like night-blooming jasmine. I used to step out into the afternoon at the corner of College and 6th streets and I'd imagine that my whole life at Pomona College was a hazy dream.
Paris can be like that, too. When I come out of work at night the whole city looks two-dimensional, like a movie set. Every time I cross the Seine and look out upon this splendorous city I think to myself, "I can't believe I live here."
I didn't want to leave Pomona. I could have stayed there forever. But Pomona was a magical hazy dream because I had beautiful friends who made it that way, and when they were gone, the magic left with them. What happens when my beautiful friends are all staying here, and I'm the only one who is leaving?
Multi-Cultural Conversations Part III
Thursday. 7.18.13 6:24 pm
German: What I was surprised to see about America was how many poor people there were. There were poor people everywhere.
Italienne: Really? More than Paris? There are so many in Paris.
German: No, there were way more. I think in America, when you are poor you are raised poor and then everyone knows you will stay poor always.
Me: I don't know about that... that's like the opposite of the entire idea of America, actually.
German: But all the people in America are so poor.
Me: Let me guess-- you took the bus.
German: Yes! How did you know?
Me: In Europe, everyone takes the bus, so you see all of the poor people and rich people and middle class people all mixed up together. In America, only poor people take the bus.
German: Oh really? Because there were just poor people and immigrants and me in the bus.
Me: Don't ask me why, that's just the way it is.
German: So rich people always take taxis?
Me: No, they drive cars.
German: But what if they go to cities that they don't know?
Me: They rent a car.
German: ::mind blown::
Everyone x11: Oh, you're American? But Americans are usually so bad at languages and they have terrible accents.
Me: Well, maybe if your countries made good TV shows, we would learn your languages so that we could watch them in the original versions. But they don't, so we don't.
Everyone: Hmmmmmm.... you do have a point.....
"What language are you speaking?" he asked. "We were speaking English, but we can speak French if you want." He doesn't know English. "What languages do you speak?" All of the rest of us had our languages stuck to our shirts on our name tags, but his shirt was blank. "French," he said, "two Pakistani languages, and two Afghan languages." Our languages were more prosaic. Italian. German. Spanish. He said he doesn't run into a lot of people who speak Pashtun. I've heard of Pashtun, I say. He says that it's sad because people only hear about countries if there are wars in them. He's from Afghanistan.
Where am I from? I'm from the United States.
Nice to meet you. What else is there to say?
He's a carpenter. He works for a company, their most recent project was a garage. It was for an important Afghan minister. But our carpenter considers him a friend. He's been in France for almost three years now. He has a carte de sejour. He says that with his new company he gets vacation. People here get vacations, he says. It doesn't sound like he's ever had a vacation. He doesn't know where to go.
After he left Afghanistan over three years ago, it took him nine months to travel to France. He passed through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France. Which border was the most difficult to cross? All of them were difficult, he says, all in different ways. When he entered Italy it was by clinging to the bottom of a truck that was driving along the highway. The driver didn't know he was there. You just clung to the bottom of a truck and held on until the driver stopped. Sometimes it was six hours. You could only hold on and hope that you were headed in the right direction.
My Italian friend is nodding her head. "A lot of immigrants die that way," she says. So he came, sometimes by train, sometimes by truck, but mostly on foot.
His brother left Afghanistan with him but stayed behind in Iran, content to try his chances there. Now he's in jail for working illegally. He has to raise 3000 dollars to pay the fine that will let him out of jail, and another 600 to pay for his passage back to Afghanistan.
"It would have been better for him to come with you," I say. He says he's thought about that many times.
When he got to France, he didn't know a single person. He told a taxi driver to take him to Gare de Lyon, but he didn't know how to pronounce it. Garedelyon, he said at the time. When he got there he saw an Afghan. They could recognize each other by face, he said. This person introduced him to a group of Afghans who were sleeping in a park. His first friends. He is a master carpenter. He knows everything about every kind of wood. They gave him whatever illegal work they could. He got a bank account, but he couldn't put too much money in it. Bankers watch your account, he says, and if you keep putting in cash and you don't declare that you're working they start to ask questions. So you keep your cash on you, the only place you have, and you spend it. You have to spend it or it will disappear. Eventually he submitted a dossier to the foreign office to gain refugee status. You fill in some forms and then you fill in a paper describing your story. They call you back after a couple months, or six, or two years, to tell you whether or not your story was good enough, or if you'll have to go back. For him it was 18 months. They called him back and they asked him hundreds of questions over two hours. They wrote up his answers. His story, a page and a half originally, bloomed to 21 pages. Two months later they called him back again. Two hours of the exact same questions as before. Why did they want to know everything again? Everything was written in his dossier, every question had been asked the first time around! And then he figured it out---- it was a test. They wanted to make sure that your story was real, and by having you repeat your story several times over the course of many months, every answer carefully transcribed in your dossier, they could catch you in anything that wasn't the absolute truth. His story was good enough. They let him in. He's not allowed to go back to Afghanistan. Not for ten years-- maybe never. Declaring refugee status is making a clean break with the past and the parents and two sisters and a brother he left behind.
"Why did you choose France in particular?" I ask.
"When I was a child, there was a French army that occupied our town. The soldiers were so kind, and always helping the children. For me every country outside my country is the same. I decided to go to the place where I had the barest idea about the people. And I don't regret it--- France! Paris! A secular society! Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ! "
"I had some friends who were refugees," chimes in a guy standing next to me.
"Where are you from?" I ask.
"Vietnam," he answers.
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