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Monthly Archives: April 2012

An Education (part 1)

This was my second semester at ASU and I have been going to college on and off now for the last 9 years, a number that surprises even me. Now, I am not that movie frat guy who never graduates, just to keep the party going and the beer flowing. No, It’s just… me and college have had a complicated relationship.

I dropped out of high school sometime in 2003 and in the middle of my sophomore year. Partially due to poor grades, but I had not done well in public schools since about 6th grade. I even took 8th grade twice and jumped between charter and traditional institutions about as many times. I was the guy who read too much. I never turned in homework, but did decently on tests. I just preferred my fictional books to my studies back then, which had interesting results. As far as I know I still hold the honor of being the only student to get a flawless perfect score on the English final paper and fail the course, due to insufficient points in class.

The month after I dropped out of Peoria High, and still only 17, I signed up for the GED test, and without studying, aced it. The next semester I was enrolled at Glendale Community College. I loved fictional worlds, and at that time became fascinated with telling stories as well. The Matrix movies had come out and I had fallen in love with the Wachowski brother’s style. I was going to be a movie director. Scriptwriting, Contemporary Cinema, Photography, all these classes rounded out my first semester of college.

There were two things that killed that dream quickly. One, I couldn’t write dialog. I could describe the hell out of a scene, and I could design a narrative, but people, I didn’t understand. All that time with my head in a book had left me with a severely atrophied social understanding. When people talked in my stories, it was like reading ‘See Spot Run’. The second career killer was running out of money. I had borrowed $2,500 in a student loan, and my grandparents and saved a bit less than that on top for my college fund. That was it.

I was broke, and the same lack of social skills that had made it a difficult time in school made it difficult to keep a job as well. I was employed at the Arrowhead Best Buy, but I talked too much.  I didn’t sell enough computers wearing those blue polo shirts and khaki pants. I had a GED, but I felt broken, incomplete. My parents had done all they could do to raise me, but I wasn’t yet self-sufficient.

So I enlisted. I have no idea where the thought came from, but I will always remember every detail about the moment I had it. Every time I think about that turning point in my life, I can’t help but feel as if the idea came from outside myself. I feel this so strongly that that moment is probably the hanging thread that keeps me an agnostic instead of dropping me into full on atheism. No one had ever suggested I join the military, I didn’t grow up in a military community, my father didn’t really share a lot of tales from his uneventful stint in the Air force. I just felt like it was right.

Anyways, I didn’t get a lot of traditional college done over the next four years. I got a few credits in Japanese, and my time as a Navy computer guy bequeathed me a transcript that guaranteed I’d never need to take a computer class. Four years went by like that. I lived in Sasebo, Japan and rode my ship all over the south pacific and the Far East. I read a lot more books, but my job and the ports I visited taught me more about how to work within a system or a bureaucracy than I ever needed. I learned how to survive, and if I went back stateside, I could have gotten a decent cubicle job and been just fine, if not bored, for the rest of my life.

After those four years, with all the shit I went through, but all the awesome experiences too; I couldn’t go home. I married a navy girl, became a military spouse and moved to Guam. (I could tell you that story but I’m trying to keep this within the context of education and I’ve deviated enough.) I had been out of formal education for about 5 years when I registered for classes at the University of Guam. I needed a new major. Biology had struck my fancy and I was just in luck, here was a Marine Biology hub right next door. I was interested in lichen myself, specifically the idea of playing around with its genes. I dreamed of working in a lab and designing microorganisms that could convert one substance into another, eat salt and poop out oxygen. I wanted to be on the cover of Scientific American one day.

That ended after about one semester. Biology was gooey, bloody, complex in unsatisfying ways. It wasn’t my field. I found my love for science, but I knew biology wasn’t my flavor. I was frustrated and looking for something to blame. So I blamed myself, my ADHD. I wanted to go back on Adderall, I wanted to learn about my mind and fix myself to become a better person. Now enters my third major onto the stage: Psychology.

Still on Guam, I spoke with an adviser about my goals. She gave me the best advice up to that point, and probably saved me a lot of time and money. She told me I shouldn’t invest myself in Psychology if my goals were to fix myself. Psychologists can’t fix themselves. Every therapist is in therapy. If you could fix yourself just through knowledge, and not experience, we would all just learn how to be better.

She was right, my motivation was not sustainable. It wouldn’t have gotten me though my degree let alone a career in the field. Once again I was without a focus, without direction. And so, it was about this time that I found out my son was on the way. It was time to go home.

Don’t touch that.

I am coming to the conclusion, that when it comes down to it, I am the product of the books I have read as a youth. That when you strip away all pretense and social expectancy, very little really matters. We are aimless… or we would be if we had not attached ourselves, early on, to an idea. A precious idea that became the seed of everything else we pretend to be. That idea is like the first cell of a coral colony. It attaches itself to the seabed of our mind. Maybe it was chance, some may disagree. Maybe everyone has an idea receptor in their consciousness, like the receptors for smell in our nose. When a compatible idea comes along, it sticks in and becomes the first ionic pair in a crystalline formation. All that we are, our personality and the life choices we make comes from this first idea.

If we trace back in our mind, and rip out all the chains of purpose and duty and cause and effect and find that root, that primal idea…

If we grab it and rip it out…

Would we reboot?

Circumpolar Currents on Mars

I’m adding a new tag called “Things I want to get back to” or maybe “future thoughts”.  Here’s one: If we melted the polar cap on mars and raised the temperature enough to sublimate the water into an ocean, should we think about the structure of said ocean? Let me back up a bit. I’m studying Historical Geology right now, specificity in the Palogene, around when the ice cap began forming over the continent of Antarctica. There was a significant process that occurred in this era that changed global climate in the most drastic of ways. This was the creation of the circumpolar current, a spinning ring of water encircling the southern continent, isolated and freezing cold. It was created when Australia separated from the antarctic and Drake’s passage opened up allowing water to flow freely around the entirety of the south pole.

Now, before this current came into being, the world was sub tropical almost from pole to pole, even the islands around what is today Greenland stayed above freezing in the winter, and had alligators! This current created a world wide temperature gradient that was steep and unforgiving. But all of this has nothing to do with Mars.

Or does it…

The topography of Mars is such that the northern hemisphere is much lower than the southern one. This basin would be a natural place for water to collect into an ocean if the human race is ever able to raise the temperature and pressure on the surface of the red planet. Interestingly enough, this northern ocean may have the possibility of generating a similar circumpolar current. Maybe there is a thesis somewhere in there.

An 82 year old book, Antarctica, and Hong Kong

I got an fantastic surprise in the mail this week. In the mail was an actual issue of National Geographic from August 1930, not the copy I thought I had ordered. This issue details the “current” event of Richard Byrd’s Expedition to Antarctica in 1928-1930. The thing smells of old attic and antiquity. I love it. I’m keeping it in it’s plastic wrap.

Next, I’ve been reading Antarctic Horror, a very small sub-genre. The masters of which are H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, two authors that are considered pinnacles of the horror genre. They collectively blew my mind this week with their short stories.  These two books are , At the Mountains of Madness, and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.  Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness is so chocked full of hardcore geology that if this was reading for the layman, then we have regressed as a people. My only conclusion was that either H.P. was trying to recruit people to geology ( Become a Geologist! Die horribly!) or that it was intended for a learned audience.

I entertained at least a handful of people on my last geology trip to Death Valley by reading excerpts of this book around the campfire. I have been told that I have a pleasant reading voice, I guess sometimes people just listen to the tone and not my words. Either way. I love to entertain people, and I’m happy to do so. (Pro Tip: If you cant hold English together while reading out loud and drinking, switch to Scottish or Irish. These accents were made for tripping over your own tongue. )

Back to the review(cough Spoilers) The Pym text by Edgar Allen Poe was written 100 years before Lovecraft’s short novel. Both of these stories are about the Antarctic, and both are amazing representations of their respective authors work.

I actually yelled at Poe while reading his book. He lead me though a compelling account of canibalisim in the first person! I closed my book for a moment, and exclaimed, ” oh hell no, f*** you Poe, f*** you!” He then leaves the book open at the end, abruptly enclosing a letter from the publisher that tells the reader that the narrative was never finished and that the man who spun his tale to Poe died with the last few chapters in hand.

Don’t give me any spoiler alert crap. The book is 200 years old and is the only novella written by one of America’s premier poets. If you had not read it yet, you wouldn’t have read it without me telling you. 🙂

Anyways, all this brings me to the other interesting item I got in the mail. I didn’t check where I was ordering from apparently (again not paying attention to my online purchases and setting a pattern here), and so I was surprised when a packet from Hong Kong arrived in the mail. I’ve been to Hong Kong myself, but I was still intrigued by obtaining a package from that far off island. Inside was a very nice velvet pocket(?), and not it was not like a cheap little dice bag or something. This was a velvet lined and covered cotton satchel worth at least $20 dollars US, like what you might by to place expensive jewelry in for a gift. Velvet wallet? I dont know quite how to describe it.

Inside was what I had ordered, a cheap pair of headphones and a spare cable for my tablet, but these trinkets were immediately forgotten in favor of this little velvet bag. I kept thinking to my self “What must have this Hong Kong shop thought of the American buyer, to wrap such a mundane purchase in so fine a case?”  I’m just joe shmo, spending like $20 on a spare charger for my tablet, not the Czar of all Russia. Thanks though.

Finaly, I got my Bookcase/Geology Shelves organized. Heres a pic.

That’s all for now. I’ve got an 82 year old National Geographic to read. Away!

That quirky little tune

People communicate through musical expression. They can use that expression to relieve stress. They can use that expression to share thoughts and emotions to others that cannot easily be conveyed though spoken word. They can also mean nothing at all except that ones mind has become idle.

That is the problem with song. Most of the time the words are not your own. They are a frame of reference created by another mind. It means something to you or it says something that you want others to hear. But even worse than spoken word, a stolen bit of song losses much in the space between your mind and another.

Art is a window into a soul. Make your own.

Lets take that door off

This interesting scene is the product of 2 hours of work, or demolition, to get into a friends cabin after locking ourselves out. Taking the doors off the hinges wasn’t the  first idea. This was our last resort. No shoes or jackets. No tools. We had stepped out to feed the birds and enjoy a morning coffee when a twist of a knob decided for us what we would be doing for the next few hours.

We walked the cabin looking for an unlocked window, but we had double checked those the night before. I checked the sturdiness of the door lock, remembering that my parents old house has a fragile and easy to jimmy knob. After this failed, I climbed on the tin roof, barefoot, in an attempt to reach a possibly open upper window. This proved untenable as I was unable to obtain footing on a roof of that steepness.

She tried picking a lock. I offered to try to hot wire my car. Hiking was out of the question without shoes and with the nearest person 2 miles away.  We were left only one choice. We would have to break open the shed and remove a door from its hinges.

As you can see in the photograph above, we were successful. And it was the best two hours of my weekend doing it.  🙂