naturedance: this is me on a suspension bridge (me backpacking)
A reminder from Mom today, via Facebook:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Meade
naturedance: this is me reading Walden (me reading Walden)
Twelve steps of job and life transitioning )

And a few more things...

Remember to breathe.

Take time to meditate.


Be happy.

Live. Laugh. Love.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
Sometimes cocooning is necessary and good.

Work may be insanely busy, but the past few months I've ended up doing herculean sprints and then crashing, and that's not a good long-term survival strategy for what's turned out to be a marathon machine room move. Pace yourself, woman!
naturedance: Caltech GeoChem BS, former ITS staffer, and member of Blacker Hovse (techer geek)
Professors are rather like peacocks when they dress up in all of their finery, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's adorable.

Sandra Tsing Loh is engaging and funny and her cracks about her degree being built on partial credit had me in tears of laughter. Oh, so very, very true... and yes, for any non-Techers reading this: there are such things here as take-home, infinite-time, open-book exams, and yes, they're just as stressful as they sound.

There will be streaming video and photographs and transcripts and things up at the Commencement 2005 site later this afternoon.

I do love this place. I shake my head sometimes, I roll my eyes sometimes, I tear my hair sometimes and can't sleep at night because of this place, but I do love it. And Sandra's right... once Caltech bestows a degree, they can't take it back, no matter what you decide to do with your life after Tech. :-)

I'm reminded of Bill Nye's advice when he was the Commencement speaker a few years back... here's the version I took away from that speech:
- Try to remember the passion that first brought you into your field of study as you advance. Don't lose that excitement.
- When you are designing something, get to know the people who will actually build it. Bridging the gaps between theory and practice can be accomplished by human interaction and diversity of experience and knowledge and inspiration.
- When you know you're going to take a bucket of water to the face, untuck your shirt. That'll prevent some part of it from going down your pants.

And yeah, that last one might not be immediately applicable to everyone, but if you abstract it a bit, there's some fundamental wisdom there... when you know you're going to do something which will result in discomfort, plan ahead and don't deny that it's going to happen. Do what you can, especially the simple little stuff, to minimize the discomfort, especially when there's a chance you may get that bucketfull in the face multiple times.

I wish the site of past Commencements had more speech transcripts going further back. The ones that are there are wonderful and inspirational, of course, but I'd love to read more of them going back further in time.

Congratulations, graduates! Now, have a nice party, then get some sleep. After that, go forth boldly, follow your passions, work hard for your dreams, and make your mark on the world! Dance as though no one is watching, and all of that.

And when you get rich and famous? I hereby respectfully request that you consider gifting Caltech with a building just for us IT infrastructure types. Mediterranean architecture, high-speed networking, nice roomy disk quotas and stable, powerful, dependable, redundant computing systems all go so well together... ;-)
naturedance: Caltech GeoChem BS, former ITS staffer, and member of Blacker Hovse (techer geek)
This coming Saturday I will be volunteering as part of the Sally Ride Science Festival here on campus.

They happen all over the country. They're only one component of the cool stuff done by Sally Ride Science.

*big happy grin*
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (reflective)
It's Veterans Day, and I remember something my Mom told me about her father, and it probably holds not only for all of my relatives who've served, but all men and women who've served. She said he'd fought in what had been called "the war to end all wars" but that so had all of the soldiers before him. We send our soldiers to war so that we will know war no more, so that our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, will not have to go to war.

It still hasn't worked.

I remember.

I thank all who have served, and who are serving, and who will serve... and I remember.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (reflective)
Whenever I talk with prospective students and their parents, someone always asks me what Admissions is really looking for, or what their student could emphasize/illuminate on their application to offset some perceived limitation.

Yesterday I found myself saying something like:

Find your joy, find your passion. Seek out seminars, books, online communities, in-person meetings. Devote enough time to your passions to do them in the ways which bring you joy.

Whatever your grades and test scores and classes and extracurriculars are (and yes, those are all important), no matter how much leadership and excellence and creativity you exhibit (and yes, those are all important, too)... no matter if you're trying to attend Caltech or somewhere else... exercising your ability to seek out and participate in the interests you feel passionate about will serve you well. Demonstrating that you are doing that will likely help your application to any college, but in the big scheme of things, doing is more important than telling about it, even on big important applications.

And this morning I've been mulling that around in my mind.

One of my biggest problems fifteen years ago was that I had so many joys, so many interests, that I'd pretty much yet to find anything that disinterested me. How can you choose one thing to pursue passionately when so many different courses look fascinating and complex and challenging?

I still have so many different interests that I'm not devoting enough time and focus on many of them to feel like I'm actually doing what I want with them. But I'm getting there.

Hey, look! Profound and revelatory! Go me!
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (autumn bountiful harvest)
The Tuft Of Flowers )

On that note, I'm off to work. Lots to think about, again, in this one...
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
Out through the fields and the woods
  And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
  And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
  And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
  Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
  And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
  When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
  No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
  The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
  But the feet question, "Whither?"

Ah, when to the heart of man
  Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
  To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
  Of a love or a season?

Change is hard.

I'm going to have to think about this one a lot more and then post about it again at some point. Gosh, Frost's work is amazing.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (cascade)
When I was young, we dwelt in a vale
  By a misty fen that rang all night,
And thus it was the maidens pale
I knew so well, whose garments trail
  Across the reeds to a window light.

The fen had every kind of bloom,
  And for every kind there was a face,
And a voice that has sounded in my room
Across the sill from the outer gloom.
  Each came singly unto her place,

But all came every night with the mist;
  And often they brought so much to say
Of things of moment to which, they wist,
One so lonely was fain to list,
  That the stars were almost faded away,

Before the last went, heavy with dew,
  Back to the place from which she came--
Where the bird was before it flew,
Where the flower was before it grew,
  Where bird and flower were one and the same.

And thus it is I know so well
  Why the flower has color, the bird has song.
You have only to ask me, and I can tell.
No, not vainly there did I dwell,
  Nor vainly listen all the night long.

We learn the most amazing things when we just... listen.
naturedance: Caltech GeoChem BS, former ITS staffer, and member of Blacker Hovse (techer geek)
A couple weeks ago the Caltech Management Association hosted a seminar up at JPL's Von Karman auditorium for Caltech and JPL staff and students; the speaker was Eugene Roddenberry.

Yeah, that Roddenberry.

He talked a lot about getting to know his father through talking with Trekkies and Trekkers and those associated with the show. Gene died when Eugene was still in high school. It's amazing to see someone getting in touch with what was important to his Dad through the lens of other people.

I was amused to note that Eugene doesn't think of himself as a sci-fi fan. He loves good stories, whether they're set in past, present or future. Turns out he's a Firefly fan. I'm not surprised by that... Joss Whedon (and we) were robbed when that show was cancelled.

He also talked about a documentary he's working on, and showed the trailer for it. You can see it online at -- it's called Trek Nation and it's not the "oh, look, stupid geek tricks" sort of thing that Trek fans usually make it into the news with. Sometimes a book or a show captures imaginations and changes lives, and that's the view this documentary is taking. I look forward to seeing it.

In the mean time, I'm going to try to figure out the rather hopeless website interface and order a Trekfish from to stick on the back of my car. I detest creationism and have considered putting a Darwinfish on my car, but honestly, where we're going is darned important, too, not just how we got here. I've got no problem wearing my heart on my sleeve (or a fish on my car) about how much I love the ideals in Star Trek, specifically Next Generation and the original series.

And now I'm off to the Caltech campus Club Fair and Carnival. If anyone wants to stop by the ITS infobooth to say hi, please do... we'll be there from noon to 3pm (at least).


Sep. 19th, 2004 08:46 pm
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (skyward)
This was written back when I was in high school. My parents and I came to California for the first time, and on that rather amazingly busy trip, we stopped at a few groves of sequoias. I don't know how else to properly introduce this poem, other than to say that forests and wild spaces deeply affect me. But then, you probably already knew that.

by Adele Shakal

saw them
ancient, enduring
sentinels to the ages
shooting upwards, branches lifted
to the sky
unchanging through the aeons.
It was then that i
how very small, of such inconsequence,
my little life and its experiences
truly are.
Simply the blink
of an eye and
will be gone,
with few to know
that i passed this way.
But Them -
Their senses
have stood witness
to the centuries -
could They but speak to us,
that we might possess
a bit of Their wisdom.
And yet...
i feel that, could They speak,
Their deep chuckles would roll
like thunder, across the hillsides,
as They spoke, with one Voice,
explaining that, aye,
They remember aeons,
and aye,
Their lofty limbed spires lift
ever upwards to the heavens,
but telling that we each
have our parts
in this ultimate play,
and that their lifetimes are,
as ours,
but a blink
in the eye
of the
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Default)
And it's also why I love life in my apartment with Roommate, because our conversations are like an ongoing exploratory essay.

This article is awesome. It's full of gems like this:

If all you want to do is figure things out, why do you need to write anything, though? Why not just sit and think? Well, there precisely is Montaigne's great discovery. Expressing ideas helps to form them. Indeed, helps is far too weak a word. Most of what ends up in my essays I only thought of when I sat down to write them. That's why I write them.

and like this:

Anyone can publish an essay on the Web, and it gets judged, as any writing should, by what it says, not who wrote it. Who are you to write about x? You are whatever you wrote.

Thanks to [ profile] yesthattom for pointing it out.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
A journal excerpt from Chris Highland, in the introduction of Meditations of John Muir - Nature's Temple.

"The thought is constant -- go to the church of Nature. Let the tired and worn out go. Go! Drop it and Go! Go to the beauty of life that is free and open to everyone. Go and just be there in it, as a part of it."
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (bright dreams nasa)
A while back I put together a whole big essay about Star Trek. I had been surfing over to Wil Wheaton's blog fairly often and he'd been writing about the good things that Star Trek has meant to him, and my thoughts kind of percolated. I was at a sort of transitional place in my life... I guess in a lot of ways I still am. Welcome to thirtysomething Gen X style.

In any case, I wrote this essay.

I've known for a long time that I'm not alone in appreciating the original, and early Next Generation era, Star Trek. There are a huge number of Trekkies worldwide, and I'm happy to count myself among them. We're the geeky engineers, the loner programmers, the middle-management scientists, the stealth-geeks who pass for normal, even working in nontechnical careers... surprise!

I'm not going to go into why I detest what has happened to the franchise. Suffice it to say that today's Star Trek is not Mr. Roddenberry's Star Trek.

Real life has been busy lately, with the apartment move, work chaos, and a close relationship transitioning from romance/arguments to friendship. I'm still adjusting to having a roommate and simplifying/organizing/decluttering my living space as my priorities become clearer. I'm starting to get used to being urban. Yeah, I've been living in LA for thirteen years and I'm finally admitting that I'm urban... it's taken me a while. I prefer wide open spaces, but urban living does have its perks if I have it on my own terms. Before that I was swept up in the Dean campaign, and although I'm still involved in the activism which has transformed itself into Democracy For America in addition to the John Kerry campaign, I'm not spending as much time as I was last year. So I've been kind of scattered, and really busy, for months if not years. What a strange thing to notice, huh?


Every now and then I stumble across something that reminds me exacly how and exactly why this little TV show has created such a following. Yeah, it's neat science fiction. Yeah, the aliens are all bumpy and funny-looking. Yeah, the actors and actresses are pretty and few people look bad in uniform, you know? But that's not what makes Star Trek special.

Go read this, please: A Love Letter To Star Trek.

I found that link courtesy of WWdN. As always, Wil, you rock my blogosphere.

Wow, did that last sentence sound geeky.

Well, yes, I am geek, and I'm proud of it. I may hate quantum mechanics, and I may suck at metamorphic petrography, and I may not be an engineer or a programmer, but I remember that hope, that vision... and every now and then, I turn my face to the stars... and I think about all of the work we have yet to do down here on Earth.

We do have a long way to go. I hope we make it.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (reflective)
Dr. Robert Sharp gave me my first real appreciation for and understanding of local California geology, and made the geology of Hawaii come alive for me.

Although he had been retired for decades during my senior year spring break week in Hawaii, he was still in the process of handing off coordination and instruction of that trip to Dr. Silver, and he was amazing to talk with. I don't know how many times he'd listened to seniors presenting similar research topics during that yearly trip over the decades, but he never, ever seemed disinterested... he was always encouraging and a really amazing man. Also, he knew where to get the best-tasting papayas and limes on the island.

He was also the author of a number of books in the Geology Underfoot series, by the way, which are really cool.

There are a huge number of incredibly knowledgeable faculty and TAs at Caltech, but some of them simply intimidated me too much for me to draw both inspiration and instruction from them. Others were just amazing...

Inspiring teachers make such differences in our lives... now I find myself thinking of a number of others who I've been privileged to learn from and be inspired by.

Dr. Sharp, Dr. Kamb, and Dr. Wyllie in the Geology department were three of my most inspiring professors when I was an undergraduate, along with Dr. Rees in the Chemistry department and a phenomenal TA I learned freshman chemistry from, Roxanne. My curriculum advisor Dr. Rossman and another phenomenal TA, Jean, were so very helpful in Geochemistry...

Jeez. You'll be missed, Dr. Sharp.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
She's six now, but I first met Logan last year, when she was five. She has beautiful waist-length silver-white hair; it's her most striking feature if you are skating behind her. She was out in the bustle of a busy skating rink, rolling along in the crowd of kids and adults grooving to eighties music at the Franklin Skate Club, and chatting with a little friend, another little girl about her age. She had bright white skates with pale green wheels, so clean that the skates had to be nearly new. It was around the holidays, so I assumed they were a Christmas present. I was right. What I didn't realize at first is that Logan is blind.

Yes, a little blind child had asked for new roller skates for Christmas. Her parents and the awesome folks in the skate shop at the rink had found some that come with mint-scented green wheels. She was rolling right along on them. And yes, she can skate backwards, too, I've seen her.

She's an amazing little girl, from an amazing family, and the Franklin Skate Club is an amazing place.

Meeting Logan that evening sort of put some perspective on life for me, back at the holidays... sometimes I take for granted the simple things that not everyone can do, you know, or the things that take a different kind of effort for others than for me. We all have our challenges, and here's this little girl just facing hers head-on, with a smile and happy chatter. And mint-scented skates.

I think she really wants to be able to play roller hockey with her older brothers, but as far as I can tell, although there are some blind ice-hockey leagues in Canada, no one has yet figured out how to make a roller-hockey puck for the blind. I did do some research on it last January... up north the guys usually make some variant of "metal ball bearings in a taped can" so that it rattles and they can track the noise of the puck, but that just won't work on a carefully-finished wood floor. There was a research project at Dartmouth a while back to make a beeping ice-hockey puck, but no finished design was ever produced... Mom and I asked them. But that's another project for another day.

Right now, Logan needs a Mountbatten Brailer for her schooling. That's a pretty expensive piece of equipment, but one which she needs. So the Franklin Skate Club had a benefit skate last week to help her out. Read about it for yourself!

They could use a bit more help, so I'm going to go ahead and share this information here. If you'd like to help out, donations may be sent to the following address. If you do, please enclose a note that you read about Logan in the Journal article online.

Franklin Skate Club
c/o Larry Williams
2680 N. Morton (U.S. 31)
Franklin, Indiana 46131

Regardless, please do read the link above to the Daily Journal article (unfortunately the online version doesn't have the two photos which appeared in the print version; I'm going to scan them in and link them here once I get my scanner working again). Logan's quite a skater... and so is her friend Doc, who I see every time I'm at the rink with my parents. He's just as much of an inspiration... he's in his 80s, and the little kids ask about him if he's not at the rink on his usual nights to skate with them.

I mentioned that the Franklin Skate Club is an amazing place, didn't I?
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (skyward)
Yeah, I'm quoting from the movie Dogma. Azrael was a character, wasn't he? In any case, he's rather right... especially today in Los Angeles, air conditioning is absolutely heavenly.

I rescued all of my plants from the old apartment's porch, and there are still odds and ends enough inside for maybe one or two more carloads, a goodly chunk of which is destined for the Salvation Army or Goodwill, but it is all bundled and ready. I got all the heavy scrubbing done today, too. I may want to mop the floor one last time, but if I don't get to that, it's no crisis.

But boyohboyohboy was that apartment turning into a cooker by the time I left. I didn't think I'd be there very long, so it wasn't really worth it to turn on the window AC in the bedroom if I was scrubbing in the kitchen... and the sunshades are currently rolled up and tied under the west awnings, so there's nothing to diminish the blaze of the afternoon sun all along that wall. Bleh!

I'm so thrilled that my biggest requirement for our new apartment was met when we chose this place: central air. With a thermostat and an air filter built in and everything. :-)

I haven't had much trouble with my sinuses ever since we buttoned up the windows and turned it on, either, though this afternoon I could feel allergies or something trying to get me, either from the outside air at the old place or the dust inside before I went rather crazy with the vaccuum cleaner. There's a reason the German verb for that is "to dust-suck".

I hope the plants adjust to the move OK. The irises seem to be OK, but the Christmas cacti don't like our balcony... too much direct morning sun, I suspect. Unless I shade them somehow they're not going to live here. They really miss my old office window, before I moved from the second floor at work to the basement and brought them home.

I checked my work email for the first time since Wednesday night this evening. This four day minivacation thing was a brilliant idea.

I've been needing to wear two layered shirts the past few weeks because of both the temperature change from morning to daytime, and because of the AC in the building at work... and the white graphicsy shirt would match under my blue knit overshirt... yeah, I think I may just go ahead and wear one of the Bowie t-shirts to work tomorrow morning.

*big grin* Yes, the concerts were fabulous.

Over the coming weeks I may type up and share some of my Deep Thoughts about the experience here. For now, let me just say that if an artist inspires you, really inspires you, it's very intense and differently-nuanced to see them perform live in contrast to listening to their music on CD (or tape, or vinyl...) -- if you have the chance, take it, seize it. Go see them, and see if you see a slightly differently perspective on yourself or the world around you than you did before... reflected, refracted, magnified, as part of a larger view through their art.

I remember going to a John Denver concert when I was little with my parents. It was wonderful. I have very clear memories of the whole audience singing along, and he did the entire concert, in Indianapolis' Market Square Arena which was huge, alone... just him and a stool and a microphone and his guitar and a glass of water. For some of the songs I think there maybe might have been a bit of background music or percussion piped in, but most of the concert was just him, alone or with all of us singing along. It was amazing.

And sometime before or after that, I remember seeing Mary Travers performing outdoors somewhere... maybe at Penrod one year? I don't remember if Peter or Paul were with her, but I remember watching her, rather enrapt in it... and even at that age I was analyzing things. It struck me at the time that no matter what else changed over the years, her joy in her music, the way her voice wrapped itself around the words, and the way her hair moved as she sang did not diminish. I don't think I'll ever forget that little piece of wisdom, and no matter how many different times I learn it it's still a fresh and new idea... joy transcends time.

And now that I think of it... for that matter, if a painter or a photographer inspires you, and you have the chance to buy or see the fancy art books, the exhibits, the originals rather than prints... do it. Just do it.

*happy sigh*
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (bright dreams nasa)

From Larry in Austin )

From Christine in Mass. )

And a "what the..." moment regarding Kerry and Wal-Mart. I knew he and his wife were loaded, but cripes. Billions of bucks. Right. Teresa Heinz Kerry. That must've been one doozie of a pre-nup. Yowza.

But because I do try to be at least slightly balanced... from the Kerry campaign website: Kerry Takes On Wal-Mart. Right.


ETA: This is the Dean movement in a nutshell: go to and do a search within the page for the commenter "Freethinkin". See the first post at February 7, 2004 12:15 AM ? That's a real live undecided Michigan voter right there. Read the comments from there on down... at least to this one:

Okay, wait a minute. This is unreal. Here's my night.

Log onto the Kerry blog, it's so slow I couldn't stand it.
I got yelled at and called a troll by just about everybody over there. Kinda scary really.

I go to Clark blog, not a word. nothing

I come here and there's this bucketload of people willing to help and talk and. WOW.

You guys are the best reason to vote for Dean. That's just what I'm doing tomorrow. Thanks. Now I can rest easy.
Posted by Freethinkin at February 7, 2004 12:41 AM

I'm happy.

February 2017

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