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
Thursday. 3.15.12 6:11 pm
Mysteries of Life
Wednesday. 3.7.12 4:12 pm
Sometimes I say wild and crazy things.
Sometimes I say things that he doesn't like or agree with.
Sometimes I go into excruciating detail about an incredibly boring and technical problem that I am dealing with at work.
Sometimes I talk about things I feel so passionate about that I can't speak.
Sometimes I don't have much to say at all.
For some unknown reason he always wants to talk to me again tomorrow.
les flics, allez manger du poulet !
Tuesday. 3.6.12 5:46 pm
Making friends with the Canadian took a lot of careful planning.
Making friends with Emi was effortless.
I think Emi and I were friends before we even met, and when we met we were just picking up wherever it was that we'd left off.
Emi is from Nigeria. Her family moved to the UK when she was young. Emi is a lawyer practicing English common law in Paris. Apparently it's a thing. They have international clients. Sometimes she wants to quit her job and move to Berlin to study art. Her whole life she has followed a responsible path and now she wants to do something unpredictable and reckless. Naturally she wants to do it in a responsible way, so that she can pay her rent and so that there won't be a hole in her resume. She is also writing a novel, but for now her novel is still inside her head. We're going to start getting together once a week to write. She says that some day they'll write a biography about us and they'll talk about the fateful day we met and how it changed the literary landscape forever. Maybe in the documentary version they'll pan around the hallways in Les Invalides where we first hatched the plan for our writing partnership. We like to stroll around Paris and talk about the world's problems and then not do anything about them. And cupcakes. We eat cupcakes.
In unrelated news, a conversation with les frenchies:
On whether or not we ask cops for directions:
French L: We were walking around San Francisco and I really wanted some Dunkin' Donuts because I had them in Boston. J saw a policeman and so he asked him if he knew where the doughnut shop was.
Me: You asked a COP where the DOUGHNUT SHOP was??
French L: Uh, yes, why?
Me: What did he say?
French L: Well, he told us that not all cops eat doughnuts. He showed us that he was eating a salad. And then he looked up where the doughnut shop was on his smart phone for us.
Me: You're lucky you're french.
French L: But J has such a good accent, you think he knew we were french?
Me: Hahaha. He definitely knew you were french.
Apparently the equivalent phrase in french is, "Hey cop, go eat some chicken."
Wednesday. 2.29.12 1:13 pm
Paris After Midnight
Saturday. 2.25.12 8:35 pm
is magical. Wine runs in the street, the Eiffel Tower sparkles, and people in 20s-era motor cars roll up to whisk you into time-traveling adventures.
[if by magical I mean sketchy. If by wine, I mean piss. If by sparkles, I mean is turned off, and if by 20s-era motor cars I mean giant night buses that whisk you away to prostitution. If by midnight I mean 2 am.]
I have been having a very french week. I went to my friend's house on Thursday where we ate chicken normandaise and prosciutto and artisan breads. They had red wine, but I did not drink it, because red wine tastes terrible and it does not agree with me. I managed to side-step the issue by bringing a bottle of champagne. We had home-made macaroons for dessert.
Funny quote of the evening: "I saw your blind friend in the metro the other day. I don't think he saw me, though..."
Tonight I went to a cheese party. My friend had a raclette set, which allows us to take every kind of cheese you can imagine and melt it into liquid cheese and pour it all over our potatoes and bread and mushrooms. This takes at least five hours and requires at least 3.5 stomachs. It also requires red wine, because, according to the french, drinking water causes the cheese to congeal in your stomach, and only red wine is acidic enough to stop this from happening. The french at the table would not confirm this rumor with scientific theory, they only pointed out that the only times they had declined to drink wine at the table they had gotten unexpectedly ill. There was a Singaporean, an Australian, and a Canadian at the table, besides the three french. At the game of "who-is-most-gullible", the Canadian and the Singaporean lost. We managed to convince them of the existence of slope-chickens, jackalopes, and drop-bears, which was quite a feat as we revealed that each one was false before we "were reminded" of the next one. Anthropological Note: Gullibility in Singaporeans and Canadians seems to be a cultural trait. I practiced my party-trick, which is to speak French in a "Texas accent", and we spoke a bit of german before the french told us to stop being Nazis. [Ok, so I guess we're not the only ones who make jokes like that]. As usual I affirmed my everlasting love for Australians, and it was 1:15 before we stopped to look at the time. The metro was closed (by 1:45!), so I said adieu to mes amis and took the night bus to Notre Dame. They had turned the lights off. I've never seen it dark before. Despite the best efforts of Paris to shut everything down by midnight, the bars were in full swing and the streets were filled with guys wearing sketchy black leather jackets and expensive shoes and smoking Gauloises. I arrived at my apartment without incident. The Eiffel Tower was switched off. I can still see it against the background sky, black and looming like an alien space-craft.
Quote of the evening:
Singaporean: "Can you send cheese in the mail in France?"
French: "Uh.... duh... of course you can. That question is ridiculous."
Australian: "But it will go bad!"
French: "Cheese doesn't go bad, it just becomes more 'cheese'."
Crystal Field Theory
Tuesday. 2.21.12 4:14 pm
I finally got a library card for the university library. I celebrated by checking out a bunch of books on desert environments, crystal field theory, and aerosols. My first victim was the crystal field theory book, because I'm doing some free-lance spectroscopy on Mercury and I need it to figure out my positions on important issues, like whether Mercury is dark because it is covered in opaque titanium oxides or whether magnesium sulfates are what's goin' down there.
Spectroscopy is cool. Here's how it works. You've probably seen the shell model of the atom. A bunch of protons and neutrons crowded together in the nucleus, and then electrons buzzing around them in different shell levels above. Where there are groups of atoms, another atom can steal the electron from the first and they can become ionically bonded. It's a simplified model. Electrons actually have pretty complicated "orbitals", or regions in which they are most often found, within their "shells". Some orbitals are shell-like, others are elongated balloon-shaped loops. The electrons appear in different orbitals depending on how many electrons the atom has. Once the shell-like orbitals are filled, they move into the loopy orbitals, and so on. In a crystal lattice, many different atoms are bonded together in a repeating pattern. Because of the effects of neighboring atoms, the bonds are not always formed at ideal angles, and some atoms get stretched in strange ways. Sometimes their orbitals start to overlap, allowing electrons to move between them or to move between different orbitals in the same atom. Electrons also have different energy levels that they can occupy, and if they receive a jolt of energy they can enter a higher energy state. However, if the electron doesn't get exactly the right amount of energy to bring it into the next state, it can't go there. Too much or too little energy won't do the trick.
The energy that the electron needs to move into higher energy states can be imparted when a photon (a particle of light) strikes the mineral. Photons travel as waves with different wavelengths. Each wavelength corresponds to an energy. High energy photons are gamma rays and X-rays. Slightly lower energy are photons in the ultra-violet (UV) part of the spectrum. Next comes the visible part of the spectrum that you and I can see, starting with the highest energy (blue light) and ending with the lowest visible energy (red light). We have special molecules in our eyes which are suited for interacting with photons in this range of wavelengths, which allows us to see color. Just to the low energy side of what we can see is the infra-red. You can buy film and take pictures of things in the infra-red, which is actually fascinating because all vegetation appears bright white. We can't see infra-red light with our eyes, but we can feel it with our skin in the form of heat. This is why hot coals glow red-- they are emitting so much energy in the form of heat that some gets emitted in a slightly higher energy range: visible red light. ["Colder" stars are also red. Our sun is yellow, and very very hot stars are blue.] The infrared was discovered by William Herschel, an astronomer. He was measuring the room temperature and he noticed that if he measured red light coming from his prism the temperature went up. If he held the thermometer just to the right of the red light, it went up even higher. An invisible color of light, detectable as heat! He also discovered Uranus and several moons of Saturn and Uranus in his spare time (what do you do with your spare time)? At lower energies (and longer wavelengths) we run into microwaves. Finally, with really long wavelengths and low energies are radio waves. All these things are just other words for photons of various wavelengths, and together they make up what we call the "electromagnetic spectrum":
While a mineral may be bathed in the light of the whole spectrum (white light), it only absorbs photons that have exactly the right amount of energy to bump its electrons up to the next energy level. Depending on what elements are present, and where they are in the crystal structure, the mineral as a whole absorbs characteristic parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, mostly between the UV region and the mid-infrared. Much longer wavelength photons pass right through the material, while ones with much shorter wavelengths (X-rays and gamma rays) pass through the material until they run into something dense (like your bones). Most of the light in the right range is simply reflected. By measuring all of the light that gets reflected off of the mineral, you can see what it is made of, and how its crystal structure is arranged. Here is a hard-to-read graph of a bunch of common materials:
It's supposed to say, "feldspars, olivine, metal, and pyroxene". The horizontal axis is the wavelength of light, and the vertical axis is the amount of light reflected (usually compared to the amount of light that shone on the object, to get rid of the influence of the light source). The ones besides metal are very common rocks on the Moon. You can see that for each mineral there are characteristic parts of the electromagnetic spectrum where they absorb light. In the visible range, this defines their color. If they absorb everything but green, all of the green light will be reflected, and that will be the color of the mineral. If they reflect lots of red light, the mineral will be red. That is how the color of everything you see is made. By looking at rocks this way, we can tell what the Moon is made of just by collecting the light that reflects off of it from the Sun. So why are the absorptions deep, wide U's instead of very narrow blips where the energy level is just right? Well a major reason is because of heat. When something is heated up, its molecules start to vibrate. As the molecules in a crystal lattice vibrate, sometimes their electron orbitals start to overlap more or interact, reducing or augmenting the amount of energy required to jump between energy levels. So depending on how the lattice is vibrating, the atom can absorb photons on either side of its "ideal" wavelength, making a big U with the ideal wavelength at the bottom.
Here is the a spectrum for plants:
You can see that the least absorption is in the green part of the spectrum, which is why plants are green.
Sapphires can be many different colors depending on small trace amounts of metals that substitute into their structures:
And that is all of spectroscopy and crystal field theory in the space of a Nutang entry.
Monday. 2.13.12 6:37 pm
1. Kicked my friend's ass in Fußball. Yeah. He never saw it coming.
2. Visited the Parisian sewers and learned about where my water comes from and how it is treated, in addition to how water was distributed and waste water carried away throughout the ages. Saw (and smelled) actual sewage floating by.
3. Saw two people actually shooting up in the metro station. Holy shit.
4. My pastor challenged us to be more like Jesus and to reach out to the "untouchables" in the city of Paris.
5. My friend saw a homeless person lying face down on the sidewalk on a below-freezing day. She called the police and they told her she should poke him to see if he was still alive. She was afraid to poke him because of his crazy drunken homeless friend. The firemen came and picked up the guy and his friend. The next day they were across the street drinking wine again.
6. I did so much parkour that every single muscle in my body is sore and I can no longer walk or sit up. I thought getting in shape was supposed to make your body feel better?
7. I cooked some cookies in the microwave.
8. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day!
Actually I loooove Valentine's Day!
Hmmm... what else.... oh yeah, Obama's budget recommends shutting down the Mars program. No more exploration of Mars. =(
Saturday. 2.11.12 4:47 pm
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