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
Day 24: The Bells of Notre Dame
Sunday. 2.24.13 4:05 pm
This weekend was pretty full. On Saturday I went to a one-man show about Muslim-Christian relations which took place in the crypts of the cathedral of Saint Sulpice. I was doing some research for my novel, some of which takes place in the crypts, so I thought I should get a look. The show was good too, making cool use of the Hang, a sweet instrument that looks like a UFO.
From 4 til about 9 I was at parkour, and my group members and I came up with a hilarious and awesome choreographed parkour routine.
On Sunday I woke up and went to Mass at the Saint Sulpice (more research). Then I went to services at my normal American Church, and then me and all of my sweet church buddies went to Notre Dame to see the bells, which are currently on display in the nave of the church (they let us touch them!). They just cast a bunch of new ones to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the cathedral, and they're going to hang them and ring them for the first time at the end of February. SL thought it would be funny if they rang in some kind of crazy resonance that broke every single stained glass window in Notre Dame. You know, not 'funny' funny, but funny, uh... nevermind. [SL is awesome]. The largest bell of Notre Dame is 19 tons, and it is called Emmanuel. Some of the smaller ones were still the size of a person, weighing about ten tons. Once they hang them it will probably be hundreds of years before anyone really sees them again. We spent a while there and the 4:30 Mass started, so technically I went to three services today.
Day 23: I'm Ready For My Close-Up
Saturday. 2.23.13 9:22 am
Just wanted to say that I'm alive.
Ok real entry:
"Are you modeling?" says the woman with the beautiful green eyes. I nod. "I want to shoot you," she says.
Like I don't hear that line every day, amirite?
When I arrived at the address indicated on the internet, I was a little bit tentative. I was met by a man named Sergei who directed me into a plain, unfurnished bathroom. Inside were several wooden stools and two women, one of whom was applying makeup to the other. I had my makeup done and we went up to the photo shoot. There were probably twenty or more photographers and two models already posing.
It was obvious that none of the models were professionals, and several, like me, had never done a photo shoot. There were four of us all together, and two professional photo studio backgrounds-- white and black. The woman with the green eyes shot some random shots of me next to a mirror, and then I was on. Bright lights from every corner, the click of lenses from ten photographers at once. Paparazzi, man, that's what it's like. It isn't long before you run out of ideas on how to pose. Aren't the photographers supposed to tell you that? Isn't someone supposed to tell you to make love to the camera? No--- they're mostly amateurs, too. Finally I establish a rapport with my favorite photographers: Patricia, the french makeup artist, the woman with the green eyes, and Peter from Luxembourg. Peter from Luxembourg gives me ideas and I do them; I do things and it gives Peter ideas. Green Eyes likes to take photographs from the side where there is less competition. I had it in my mind to never do anything flirty or sexy, so I don't. I'm dressed pretty conservatively, but they snap away happily.
It's a weird dynamic. You pose, they snap photos.... you sense that you are losing their interest, you try a different pose... they react with a barrage of clicks. After watching the first two models unphotogenically struggle with self-doubt, the one thing I don't do is hesitate or look uncertain.
Mr. Photographer, I'm ready for my close-up
Make sure you catch me from my good side
At the end of the night I signed photograph release forms. No posting the photos on Facebook, my release forms say. No using them in paid work. Ok to put them in your online portfolio. What can I say, we models have to protect our images... it's our livelihood.
After the shoot we went out for hot chocolate and I got to tell people what I really do for a living.... study volcanoes on Mars.
Day 22: Short Update
Friday. 2.22.13 11:18 am
In a moment I'm leaving to go to a MeetUp where we all go to a photo studio and take "fashion" photos of each other. This time I'm a "model", and the theme is "Masquerade". They have a person that does make up who is going to make us up beforehand.
Anyway, I'm leaving my computer at work so I'll be incommunicado until mañana.
Day 21: Nuclear Families
Thursday. 2.21.13 1:01 pm
I'm pretty exhausted. Christophe wrote me an email. No, he wasn't asking me to drink expensive European cocktails in a trendy bar, he was just answering a question I had about whether or not the protons in his cyclotron were fast enough that he had to take relativistic effects into account. No, it wasn't a euphemism.
Ok, time for a back explanation:
I went to visit a couple of cyclotron facilities with the colleague of my sister's husband's father. The only reason I went was because the guy doesn't speak French and my sister's husband's father thought it might be nice to have someone along who did. He'd get a quasi-french-speaking companion, I'd get to see some weird labs and maybe eat a free lunch. I wondered what I should wear... I figured the American engineer would be wearing khakis, a blue dress shirt, and a pair of sensible brown shoes. This is exactly what he was wearing, though he also had an Land's End jacket and a leather hat from LL Bean. So Colorado. I figured the french engineers would be wearing black dress pants, dark sweaters, and dress shoes, which is also exactly what they were wearing.
I wasn't that much help... they would be like, "What is the word for airlock? What is the word for proton beam?" We managed to figure things out somehow. I did help at the beginning when we were lost in the hospital, and at the end when we were drinking wine and eating fine french cuisine.
We arrived at the hospital and ended up in radiopharmaceuticals. This is where we met our poor, lovelorn nurse and she told us that the cyclotron lab was upset with them because they'd recently lost a big contract with the hospital (see last entry). When we got to the bottom of the sketchy spiral staircase, she rang the bell for us and Christophe answered it. He had just sent someone out to find us. The nurse asked him how he was doing and tried to make some light banter, but he clearly had a lot of things on his mind. "We should get together to talk about the proposal," he said, 100% business. She laughed, but he wasn't laughing.
The company makes short-lived radionuclides that they mix with a glucose analogue. This mixture is injected into the veins of cancer patients, with the radionuclides acting as tracer particles. The glucose analogue is taken up by all cells which are making ATP out of glucose, but the faster the cells are metabolizing, the more they take up, and thus the more radioactive tracer particles enter them. As you might guess, cancer cells are rapidly metabolizing. When you scan the patient for radioactivity (gamma rays), the tumor lights up like a beacon, and you can take a detailed, 3-D image of it.
Thanks for the image, Wikipedia.
A cyclotron is a machine shaped like a hamburger with two giant D-shaped magnets inside. They use the magnetic field to accelerate protons to high speeds and then they collide the protons with a target made of water with oxygen-18, a more rare isotope of oxygen. The O-18 turns into Fluorine-18, which is radioactive, and which they use as the tracer in the body. It is well-suited for this purpose because it decays on the order of hours, so the patient doesn't have to be exposed to radiation for prolonged periods. The downside to this is that they have to start making the doses at one in the morning. At about 7 am the doses are shipped out, and by about 11 am they are administered to the patient. They have to calculate the rate of decay extremely precisely so that the dose will be correct at the exact moment that it is administered. This means that Christophe has to get to work every day at about midnight. Kills his chances to date our nurse, I must imagine.
"I used to work out at [city with a reputation for being sketchy], and for a year I didn't have my driver's license.... long story.... so I had to take the train and then walk to the facility. But I never had any problems," he said.
Everyone clearly wanted to hear the story, but Christophe did not indulge us. The handsome young man from finance who took us to lunch afterward told us that in order to have your license revoked for a year you'd have to have done something... quite... He raised his eyebrow and did not finish. Clearly if you run a lab filled with protons whirling at 1/5 the speed of light and giant tubs of nuclear waste being produced every week you'd have to drive fast and dangerously and gel your hair, too.
Almost everyone in the labs that we visited was a good-looking, late-20s-early-30s male, which was not at all what I expected. Nicholas, another chemist, told us that the labs have a pretty high turnover rate because of the totally insane hours. The economics behind this kind of operation is absolutely mind-boggling. The facility cost 11 million euros to build. Each tiny bottle of O-18-enriched water costs 2000 euros. Add to that the cost of running the giant cyclotron (in a vault), the cost of disposing of nuclear waste all the time, and the cost of keeping everything in the lab sterile, and you can see why cancer tests cost astronomical amounts. Even a small fluctuation in consumer demand can put a company dangerously close to disaster.
Even more worrisome has been the recent tendency of doctors to cheat on the dosage: They'll order 10 doses for 12 patients, or, in the worst cases, 5 doses for 10 patients. In order to compensate, they'll give the patients the doses well before the scheduled injection time to take advantage of the higher level of radiation.
That's when you hope that your doctor is good at arithmetic.
Day 20: The Hot Lab
Wednesday. 2.20.13 5:35 pm
We were clearly in the wrong lab-- we were in radiopharmaceuticals when we were meant to be in the underground cyclotron lab. The overworked young nurse that we were talking to offered to take us there herself. She said that she was pretty good friends with Christophe, who ran the cyclotron lab.
We went down the stairs, across the lobby, out of the building, and a block and a half down the street.
"They're actually kind of mad at us right now," she offered without prompting. "It's because they wrote a proposal to supply us with radiopharmaceuticals, but they didn't get the business. So we're right next door but we don't buy from them. But Christophe and I still get on quite well."
We walked down further, entered a courtyard, and descended a tiny metal spiral staircase. I was pretty impressed at how far out of her way this woman was taking us... it wasn't often that French people put themselves out so much on behalf of some strangers.
And then I saw Christophe.
And it all made sense.
Day 19: The Soul
Tuesday. 2.19.13 6:24 pm
Ok so it's late and I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'll just copy and paste part of an email that I was writing to someone about how I conceptualize the human soul. Because I write emails about that kind of stuff.
Within a mathematical context, I tend to think of people as finite volumes with continuous properties (easily explainable according to ordinary physical laws) except for a single, discontinuous point which goes to infinity-- this would be the equivalent of the "soul". In complex theory, when we have such a discontinuous point it often represents a "source" or a "sink". An example is your bathtub. If we want to describe fluid flow inside the bathtub, we can describe it with continuous equations until we get to the drain. We can't deal easily with the drain, so what we tend to do is to draw a circle around the drain and then to calculate the flux of water passing through the circle to quantify the strength of the drain. I feel like the soul is a such a discontinuous, infinitesimal point: it represents a "source", and in that way, our link to Infinity. While you cannot point to your soul physically in your body, you can understand its effect because of the flow of [spiritual] material outwards. I think of this as just another way to phrase the common analogy that a Christian is like a candle burning. You can tell that you are a Christian because your "light is shining": the Holy Spirit is shining through you.
I started thinking about this kind of stuff, as you might imagine, when I was taking a course in complex mathematics (real and imaginary numbers). I started writing an adventure novel about the interaction between imaginary concepts and real concepts, based on an analogy with the delightfully rich vocabulary and theoretical framework provided by the math I was learning in class. As I continued writing the novel, I started to see how I could clarify my understanding of the Universe if I thought about it within a more mathematical framework. Before I did this, I often felt like I wore two hats, my "Christian hat" and my "scientist hat". I felt like I held two sets of somewhat conflicting beliefs in my mind at the same time. Then I read the book "Flatland", written by Edwin Abbott in 1884. It is a short and rather strange book about a square who lives in two dimensions who is visited by a sphere who lives in three dimensions. It opened my mind to think about the possible geometries of Heaven and Earth and how that fits into the context of modern physics. It is not in the least a "religious" book, and it has a lot of other stuff in it about Victorian society and stuff, but I think that makes it a very good way to allow scientifically-minded people to consider a broader picture of reality without having to sweat the details of the historical development of the Christian religion.
Day 18: It's a Trap
Monday. 2.18.13 5:38 pm
So today I was actually doing work. Hard to believe, I know. For the second time since Lent began, I managed to get out of bed before 8 am. SACRIFICE.
There are like five papers that I simply MUST write, but I don't have time to write any of them, and the ones I really want to write aren't the ones I'm being paid to write. :C
I had a lovely lunch with my friend Victor the Russian today, along with the our resident Spaniard. I like to spell his name Viktor, and apparently everyone else in the lab likes to spell it that way, too. He asked, "But isn't my way of spelling Victor more common?" and we said, "Yeah, but VIKTOR just seems more RUSSIAN." Especially when you pronounce it Wiktor.
Wiktor is from Siberia. Apparently his town is only an hour away from Chelyabinsk. His friends all saw the meteor in the sky apparently. This weekend everyone went out to the woods near where the meteor landed to look for pieces. I asked if they found anything in the woods and he said that they found "something" out there in those woods, but he wasn't quite sure what it was. I told him that by the next time he visited Siberia all of his friends would have super powers. At first he would regret that he wasn't with them when they found The Object, but soon it would become clear that all of their brains were being eaten from the inside out and he would actually be the only survivor. He likes it when I talk about his friends like that.
He said that it was funny, because EVERYONE'S windows were broken. He and all of his friends were saying that a lot of people probably just busted their windows with a crowbar after the fact so that they could collect insurance money, because Russia.
I told him that I wanted to go to this comedy show that is going to take place in the basement of the cathedral of Saint Sulpice. He was like, "A bit suspicious to have a comedy show in the crypt of a cathedral. Remember what happened to Pussy Riot when they tried to have a show in a church?"
Me: "So... do you think this is a trap?"
Wiktor: "If it were in Russia, it would definitely be a trap."
Day 17: Inhabiting Bodies
Sunday. 2.17.13 3:47 pm
So I walked all over town today. AAAaaAaAaall up over town.
Last night I went to a modern dance show. It was pretty cool. It definitely challenged the latent gender biases which I previously thought that I did not have. One cool thing about the show was that it involved a huge amount of non-sexual, non-violent touching, of which I feel like our culture has too little. The dancers moved their bodies in ways that I never thought about moving a body, which made me think, like they always say of our minds, that we only use about 10% of their capability. We have an entire world to explore, but our bodies tread on worn out cow-paths from position to position and function to function. The friend that I went with said that there was a whole technique that performance artists used to inhabit their own bodies in different ways. I can't imagine trying to inhabit my own body in a different way, but she reminded me that each of us does something like this when we change clothes. Are you wearing sport clothes? Fancy clothes? Nail polish? How does this change the way that you inhabit your body?
Since I'm more familiar with traditional dance, I kept trying to figure out what their movements were supposed to symbolize... are they fighting? Planting seeds? Waltzing? Courting? As soon as I felt like I had figured it out, the dancers would do something to throw me off again. I felt like it was a microcosm of our post-modern urban reality where all of our interactions have grown so far from their pastoral roots that what was one a stylized representation of a traditional behavior is now a hyper-stylized flourish with no underlying meaning left at all.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Since when do I "get" modern dance? Since when do I use terms like "gender bias" and "post-modern urban reality"? What has become of me?
Don't worry, I'll shortly return to the theme of existentialism and depression, because both of them got a bit shortchanged in my prior entry about them.
But now I'm tired. Because I walked all up over town.
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