Thursday, December 29, 2005

Welcome to ze undehrzea world. . .

. . . as the late Mr. Cousteau would say.

Those who know me well may recall a time when I was obsessed with sharks, dolphins, and the rest of the underwater world. It peaked when I was in Junior High, so around ages 11 to 13. When I was much younger, as soon as I was able to think about what an astronaut was, I wanted to be one. The idea of exploring the universe, and helping to expand humanity outward into the unknown was exciting to me. In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and America's manned space program did a nose dive in terms of popularity and public confidence. As a six year old, my interest turned to frontiers of exploration that didn't involve the risk of dying in a ball of fire. I decided I wanted to be an Oceanographer. Like many children, I was interested in dolphins because I had heard they had intelligence that was comparable to our own, and because they were cute enough to be considered non-threatening and friendly. Perhaps unlike many children, I was also very interested in sharks.

If dolphins could be thought of as the friendly guides and helpers of the undersea world, then sharks fit the profile as villains. But they also had a mystery to them that attracted my interest. I used every opportunity to learn more about them, use them as a subject of a report in school, read every caption in the shark encounter at sea world, etc. I learned all about how sharks had been given a bad reputation in the public mind by movies like Jaws and by general ignorance and common misconceptions. They are wild animals, of course, and have the physical ability to overpower and kill humans. But so do many other life forms in nature. Why are sharks regarded with even more fear than other animals that cause more human injuries and deaths per unit time than sharks?

I think part of it is because the ocean is a place where we humans are out of our element. If you think about it, exploring the ocean really is like exploring a different world. The simple fact that the ocean's fluid (liquid water) is much more dense than the atmosphere's fluid (air) means that more life forms in the ocean can move in 3 dimensions (east-west, north-south, and up-down) than can easily do so on land. Shark's have had their physical form perfected by 300 million years of natural selection, and so can move much more efficiently underwater than humans can.

The first time I went Scuba diving, I knew it was something I was going to love. It literally exposes you to an entirely different world; one where you are free to move in all three dimensions. When you're diving, you can fly, move upside down, levitate, and move in pretty much any way you can think of.

While pusuing space science as a career, I've finally found a sustainable way to pursue diving/oceanography as a hobby. I've recently qualified as a volunteer diver at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. As a lowly exhibit diver, I enter the larger exhibits (Blue Cavern, a Baja California Pacific exhibit, and Tropical Lagoon, an exhibit with creatures found in tropical waters) to feed the fish and clean the false coral. On my second shift, I was told it was time I learn to feed "the puppies". To my diving teammates, "the puppies" are the leopard sharks.

Now, leopard sharks are certainly nothing to fear. They don't really have teeth, per se. They usually just inhale their food like a ray does. They can be found at petting pools with bat rays and sting rays, where people can pet them without fear of being bitten. All the same, I had been told that the Aquarium's leopard sharks could be fairly aggressive at feeding time. People had been known to have their fingers nibbled while feeding a shark, or having them caught in the shark's mouth when it sucks in a piece of squid or a sardine, with the shark shaking its head like a terrier. Again, they don't have teeth like a great white shark's, so the key is to remain calm and just wait till the "puppy" lets go. The worst it could do was do give you a hickey (as had happened to other divers in the past) or a bruise. Still, there is a stigma about sharks in general, and several divers are simply unwilling to feed them, opting for other assignments instead.

So with a thorough briefing from an experienced diver, I entered the Blue Cavern exhibit with my bucket of sardines and squid, and dropped to my knees on the cobblestone bottom, about 28 feet below the surface. The puppies found me immediately, and knew it was time to be fed. They did all they could to try and get into the bucket, whose contents were protected by a neoprene cover. The other fish in the exhibit (sheepheads, barracuda, yellowtail, sea bass) were also very interested, and swarmed around me as well. It was all I could do to make sure that the leopard sharks got the sardines and squid instead of all the other fish. The leopard sharks were fun, though. They came up from underneath, down over my shoulder, through my Scuba hoses. . . One almost knocked my mask off my face! I reminded myself that they could do me no real harm, and did my best to give them their lunch. A few of the morsels were snatched by other fish, but on the whole the leopard sharks ate pretty well, and I was none the worse for wear. After I was out of food, I spent the remainder of my dive blowing bubbles and doing underwater acrobatics for the children watching from the other side of the glass. They waved and giggled. Perhaps some of them are future oceanographers.

It's funny how the different things we do in life fulfill us in different ways. In my involvement in space studies, I have been fulfilling one of my interests in exploration, but I have often felt the lack of fulfillment for that part of me that wants to be an oceanographer; to be embraced by nature. Though it may seem strange, being surrounded by 3 or 4 leopard sharks all trying to be fed certainly felt like being embraced by nature. Maybe the draw of this is much simpler. Maybe it's just the thrill of trying something new. Variety is the spice of life, and hopefully the resulting flavor is happiness.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Arch Nemesis

Who could it be? Who makes my blood boil? Who, when I approach them, knowing that only they can give me what I need, looks at me with an un-moving, in-human face, promising to make my life more difficult?

Answer: The copy machine. That diabolical contraption with hundreds of moving parts; built to help mankind, but somehow frustrates us beyond belief. The copy machine. For the past few weeks, it has been my arch nemesis.

This quarter, I am a teaching assistant for UCLA's course ESS 9: The Solar System and Planets. Every week on Thursday morning, I make 86 copies of the lab handout to give to my 86 students. Every week I put my fate in the hands of a whirring plastic-and-metal beast the size of a juvenile buffalo. And every week this beast arbitrarily decides whether to make my morning easy or difficult. More often than not, it's the latter.

I want to save paper. Save a tree!, they tell me. Ok. I will tell the copy machine to print all 4 pages of the handout onto two pieces of paper, by printing on both sides. 1 side to 2-side copying? No problem! shouts the copy machine, grinning a little too widely to be sincere, that's-a mah special-tee! 86 copies? Psh. Child's play. And here I go. . . I'm a making your copies. . . and out comes the first all nice and crisp. . . and here comes the second.. . and we're doin pretty good. . and BUZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!.

The instrument panel lights up like a christmas tree. Apparently there is something wrong with absolutely every part of the copy machine, and the LCD screen is kind enough to show me all 22 steps I need to take to un-clog the machination. Open the left cover, wind the spool to make it spit out the paper, open the internal door, careful don't touch that part because it will burn your skin off, find the paper that got crunched when the copier was trying to flip it over, rip the paper out and make sure and grab every last piece of it so it doesn't gum up the gearworks, now open the right cover. . . it just goes on like this.

Got me all unclogged? asks Mr. Copier as if it was my fault. Good, now I can continue. And here I go. . . out comes the BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!

Lather rinse repeat.

Preventative action does not seem to apply here. The copier rolls dice to decide whether or not it will malfunction. Eventually, I'm able to force out all 86 of my copies, some with unsightly ink marks, others a bit crumpled from me yanking them out of the bowels of the machine. I turn on my heal, hard won copies in hand, and step solemnly away. I am at the mercy of this beast. I will be back next week to negotiate with it. I must have it's product. Despite it's shortcomings, it is the best copy machine in the building. It knows how important it is. It toys with me because it can. It is that for which I have the utmost contempt, and the utmost respect. The copy machine: My arch nemesis.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Reg and I went to see an interesting movie tonight. Film would be a more appropriate label, I suppose. People tend to use the term "film" to indicate that the show is worthy of a little more consideration intellectually; that it has merit beyond it's entertainment value. Good Night, and Good Luck was about the efforts of Edward R. Murrough, a newsman with CBS in the early 1950's, to expose Senator Joe McCarthy for his unjust and misleading methods of questioning those he would put in the spotlight as having ties to communism. The movie glorified Murrough for his brave decision to stand up and call Senator McCarthy out for doing something that should not be tolerated in a country where individuals rights are assured by the constitution. It reminded me of the parable about the Emperor's New Clothes, where an Emperor is convinced by a wily trickster that he is wearing the finest clothes in the land. The trickster acts as if only those truly worthy can see the clothes, and so the Emperor, not wanting to look stupid, pretends that he can see them, and his entourage follows suit. Everybody just goes along with the idea that the Emperor, actually naked, is wearing fine new clothes, until someone finally points out that it's all hogwash.

The news media certainly has its problems, but it is also vital in its influence on people's opinions (and votes) regarding major social and political issues in this country. It's nice to hope that not all people in the news media are simply after money and sensationalism, but the actual truth, and the preservation of the ideals of liberty. Since the invention of the television, and now the amplified power of the internet, the majority of the population bases their opinions on information that is presented to them by news organizations. The media have a great amount of power and responsibility when it comes to what happens in this country, and the freedom of speech is a vital part of the checks and balances that allow us to live without fear of repression. I am probably a bit of an idealist, but I like to think that people are generally good, and are motivated by either their desire to improve their own situation, or the situation of others. It may not always be a realistic view, but I can at least hope that there is a significant fraction of people working in the news organizations that are motivated by the latter.

It is interesting to me that George Clooney has written and directed this film, given that he has shown his political opinions about freedom of speech in the past. Terry Gross interviewed him on Fresh Air a few days ago, and he spoke about how he and other Hollywood celebrities were outspoken against the Iraq War in its early days, and how various politicians and news organizations referred to them as "traitors" because they (the celebrities) did not believe in the claims the Bush administration put forth about the reasons for going to war. Since September 11th, it seems that those who speak out with the cool voice of caution and reason are trumped (at least on the front page or in prime time) by those who cloak themselves in the veil of patriotism, which is used as a backstage pass for many actions that later seem a bit ridiculous. Those who don't support the Iraq War have been labeled as unpatriotic. I recall a debate between Bush and Kerry last year in which Bush said that Kerry was projecting a non-presidential attitude by implying he did not support the war. Bush was basically saying that the troops would feel betrayed if Kerry was elected, since Kerry did not support the war, and therefore did not appreciate the sacrifices they were making. Patriotism is an easy out for someone who wants the public to forego basic reasoning, and rally blindly to the flag.. . but I digress.

This film about McCarthyism may be as topical in today's political environment as Arthur Miller's The Crucible was in the McCarthy era; though it's unlikely this film will be as lasting or as well remembered.

Anyway, it was a good flick, and I thought I'd think out loud for a bit.

Good night, and good luck.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sky rockets in flight, after-dark delight

When it comes to launching spacecraft, the U.S. federal government has two main installations. The Eastern Range is comprised of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa Beach, Florida. This is where they launch the space shuttle and all other manned spacecraft. Also, all interplanetary spacecraft and any Earth-orbiting satellite with an inclination (angle the satellite's trajectory makes with the equator) less than 57 degrees launches from the Eastern Range. These spacecraft take off toward the east or northeast, taking advantage of the fact that the Earth already rotates in that direction, giving the satellite a boost of angular momentum. The 57 degree limit (which at least applies to space shuttle launches) comes from the fact that, if a satellite launched in a direction that is more than 57 degrees toward the north, it would be launching over populated areas of the east coast. People don't appreciate it when debris from spacecraft (or the shuttle's solid rocket boosters) fall on them from the sky. The ascent stages of these rockets need to occur over unpopulated areas, and the Atlantic Ocean fits that bill. Note: not all countries have that luxury in their spaceport location. Russian rockets taking off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia, or Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, have been known to rain debris down over the rural plains. Farmers have been known to sell pieces of Russian spacecraft to supplement their income.

The Western Range is located at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Point Arguello, north of Santa Barbara, California. This launch site is less talked about, probably since no manned spaceflights are launched there, and no interplanetary missions either. This site specializes in polar orbitting satellites. The Eastern range can't deliver polar orbits, since there are populated areas both due north (east coast) and due south (islands of the Carribean, and South America). The Western Range, however, has a clear path over the Pacific Ocean to the south. Vandenberg also is the launch site for various military launches, including Minuteman ICBM's, which it launches (without armed warheads, of course) toward the South Pacific for test purposes.

Launches from Vandenberg can be visible by residents of much of the southwest United States, depending on the lighting conditions. Last night, Thursday September 22nd, there was an especially cool launch. At 7:24 pm Pacific Daylight Time, not long after sunset, a Minotaur rocket launched the "Streak" satellite (a DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project) into a polar orbit. Since the sun had set for southern California, it was nice and dark on the ground. As the rocket gained altitude, it re-entered sunlight. This resulted in the rocket's exhaust being illuminated by the sun, while the rest of the sky was dark. A beautiful sight. I took a few snapshots from the roof of my apartment building in Sherman Oaks. You can see the other snapshots at: While Vandenberg launches something once every month or so, a nice, visible, dusk launch like this is a bit more rare, occurring every few years or so.

Having grown up in San Diego, I had seen the remnant exhaust trails of such launches before, but I'd never watched one while it was actually happening. It was beautiful! It looked like a giant comet shooting skyward.
For more infor on Vandenberg's rocket launches, and other space events relevant to the southern California area, check out SpaceArchive:

Friday, September 09, 2005

David Galvan and the Half-Blood Donation

I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best in the fine piece of film de cinema, The Negotiator, when he screamed at the police helicopters, "You want my blood?! TAKE MY BLOOD!"

In the spirit of Mr. Jackson's enthusiastic endorsement of blood donation, I headed down to the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center in Westwood this morning to make one myself. A little background is in order here. The first time I donated blood was a little less than a year ago. It arose from two motivations: 1.) guilt for not having donated before, and 2.) the desire to overcome fear.

As to the first motivation, I do not mean that anyone should be meant to feel guilty for not donating blood. Such a donation is a very personal and heartfelt act (so to speak), and each person has their own reasons for doing it or not. Everybody certainly has the right to decide what to do with their own body, afterall. But, for me personally, I felt a little guilty. Many times in college, when working in Houston, and now in grad school, I had seen advertisements and solicitations to participate in blood drives. I had watched others come back from giving blood, knowing that there was no physical reason why I could not do the same. I also knew that blood donations were essential to helping people in need.

The reason I didn't donate is because I felt an aversion to the actual process. I don't have a problem with needles used for injection. Give me a tetanus shot or an innoculation any time. But there is something about sliding a needle into one of my veins and seeing my lifeblood flow slowly out of my body through a winding tube that gives me the creeps, even though I know it is completely safe for me. The fact that I felt this psychological aversion to the process, and that it was keeping me from doing something that could help other people, led me to feel guilty. That, in turn, led me to the second motivation.

Back in my days as a Boy Scout, I learned a definition for bravery, which is a part of the Scout Law. ("A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”) Bravery is not the lack of fear. It is the ability to take action and do what is right, despite the fear. I felt that the fear I had of donating blood was not well founded, and even a little selfish. So I decided to make a blood donation in order to overcome that fear.

My first donation went fine. I was sort of nervous going in, I tried not to look at my blood flowing through the tube, and I felt a little light headed afterwards, but other than that it was a success. I walked out feeling triumphant and manly. (. . . while munching my cookie. . . and sipping my Juicy Juice. . . out of a bendy straw. Ahem.)

My second attempt at a donation didn’t go as well. Five minutes or so into the donation, the nurse noticed that my blood was flowing rather slowly. This could be a problem since, the slower the blood moves, the more likely it is to clot at the needle, which would slow it down even more. She told me to clench the squeezy toy in my hand more often, to help pump the blood out, but it was no use. After a short time, the blood had essentially slowed to a stop. What’s more, they told me they would not be able to use the blood already in the collection bag. I asked why, and this is the answer I got: the collection bags have a certain amount of anti-coagulant in them to keep the blood from clotting while it’s being collected (the bag is rocked back and forth on a machine, to help with this as well.) The amount of anti-coagulant is based on the volume of blood the bag can hold (these ones expect a donation of ~400- 450 mL). If there is not enough blood in the bag, the ratio of anti-coagulant to blood will be off, which will somehow render the blood unusable for donation purposes. The nurse suggested that perhaps I had not been hydrated enough, making my blood was unusually thick. She said I should try to drink a lot of water next time. I left disappointed, but determined to try again.

Which brings us to this morning. I spent all week making sure I was drinking ~8 glasses of water a day, loaded up on fluids this morning, and walked into the donation center to make my great comeback. I warned my nurse about what happened last time, told her how I’d been drinking lots of water, and she made preparations to better coax out my blood. If you’ve ever held my hands, you know that they are typically pretty cold. I think I have poor circulation in my extremities due to low blood pressure, small arteries/veins, or something. Heat should help keep the veins from constricting too much, so I’m told, so the nurse gave me a microwaved bag of fluid to hold in my hand, instead of a squeezy toy. Aside from hydration, blood pressure (mine is a tad lower than average, but not by all that much), and heat, another factor that could affect the flow rate is the placement of the IV needle. My nurse clearly had many years of experience doing this, and she expertly slid the needle in place. It was quick and almost painless. She monitored the flow closely.

Things were going fine for a while. Then, about halfway through the donation, my blood decided to slack off again. She piled on more warm bags of fluid, did something to the tube that was supposed to help move the blood along, rubbed my arm, even gently changed the needle’s orientation a little, all to no avail. A couple of other nurses came over and puzzled over the problem, suggesting different things to one another as to how to get my blood flowing better. Everything seemed to have been tried. Again, we had to abort. I had not quite filled the collection bag halfway. The nurses shrugged and apologized that my donation hadn’t worked out, and I apologized that my blood was so lazy. The only other thing they could think to suggest is that I try to use a vein in my other arm (all three attempts so far have been using my left arm). As I walked out, nurses were still shaking their heads: “. . . never seen that happen two times in a row!” Great.

It occurs to me that I am not a physically impressive specimen of humankind. My visual acuity is 20/400, I recently learned that I have flat feet, and apparently I can’t even bleed right. What am I, some sort of mummy? At least I know I’m not very likely to bleed to death.

I do intend to try again. This is something small I can do to try and help other people. Besides, its personal now. What, my blood isn’t good enough for you? You want my blood? TAKE MY BLOOD!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The answer, my friend, is blowin in the (solar) wind. . .

One of the challenges of being a graduate student in science is developing the skill to communicate your research to people of varying backgrounds. If a space physicist from another university asks me about what I'm working on, they get a fairly different answer than would a scientist in a different field, let alone another grad student, a non-scientist, a friend, a family member, or a barber. As many of my professors have told me: effective communication is all about knowing your audience. What are they really asking when they ask what you're doing, and what level of detail will allow them to understand, instead of just boring them enough to make them change the subject?

This is a skill I don't think I've mastered yet, and I'm trying to get better at it. Teachers and media spokesmen (news reporters, for example) have mastered this skill, and I admire them for it. What good is science (or information, for that matter) if you can't disperse the knowledge among many people?

Today, my friend Dave (sits in the cubicle next to mine, has the same advisor, and is a much better teacher than I am) forwarded me this link:


  • It has several little Flash games about space physics and space weather. You can have the Sun fire a coronal mass ejection (CME) at the Earth, and see what sort of damage it causes. You can play a neat mini-golf game that teaches you how charged particles move in electric and magnetic fields. I swear, you don't have to be a nerd to enjoy these things (but it helps).

    Explaining something so the person understands it is one thing, doing it well enough that they get interested is another, and making something fun. . . well, that's priceless. See, you can learn something from a computer game!

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    Messenger of the Gods

    MESSENGER is a NASA spacecraft whose mission is to study the planet Mercury from orbit. It should make its first flyby of the planet in 2008, and eventually enter a stable orbit in 2011. In the mean time, it has to get there, and it does so by making “gravitational assist” maneuvers near Earth and Venus. Because the spacecraft has to lose energy to go from Earth’s orbit to Mercury’s, it flies by Earth and Venus on their interior sides; that is, on the sides facing the sun. By doing this, it loses a little bit of its angular momentum to the planet, resulting in a lower energy orbit that brings it closer to the Sun, and hence closer to Mercury. (Note: spacecraft headed toward the outer solar system will do just the opposite, flying by the exterior side of Earth, Mars, or Jupiter in order to steal some of the planet’s angular momentum, and gain a higher radius, higher energy orbit. Since the ratio of spacecraft mass to planet mass is extremely small, the change in the planet’s orbit is not significant.) This clever way of navigating the solar system saves propellant, and likewise a little bit of taxpayer money. (the mission costs < $300 million, a bargain for an interplanetary mission)

    Last month, while we were busying ourselves with our hectic lives involving family, friends, work, food, driving on the freeway, and television, the MESSENGER spacecraft was making just such a maneuver near the Earth. While it was leaving the vicinity of our planet, it took a series of photographs with its wide angle camera. These images have been strung together to form a little movie of the Earth as seen by the spacecraft, as it goes from near the orbit of geosynchronous satellites to past the orbit of the Moon, in a little less than 24 hours time.

    Views like this are one of the reasons I love space exploration.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Chockets. . . that's right, chockets.

    What are chockets, you ask? They are pockets that have become chocolatey. I had one today because last night I forgot to empty my pockets of the after-dinner chocolates we got at dinner. I put on the same pair of pants today and, when I was putting my phone in my pocket I felt the warm mushiness of a chocolatey pocket. . . a chocket.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    Didneh. . . Didneh land

    Regan and I didn't know what to do for our first anniversary today until a few days ago, when we decided to go to Disneyland. Also, since we know of at least two other times that we'll likely be going to Disneyland with family members within the next two months, we decided to purchase the annual passes. They pay for themselves after 2-3 visits, and they let you go to both Disneyland and the California Adventure park, so we shelled out the dough.

    It was a busy day at Disneyland for several reasons: 1. It's summer, and just before alot of kids go back to school. 2. It's a sunday, and 3. It's Disneyland's 50th anniversary, so there's all these special parades and decorations going on. Everyone's buying the solid gold mickey ears. Well, not solid, but gold anyway. Space Mountain has been refurbished, and is worth a ride.

    For those of you who are big on efficiency, it turns out that if you have a park-hopper pass (or an annual pass that lets you go to both parks in the same day) you can have one active FastPass ticket from EACH PARK at the same time. We were able to demonstrate this by going to D-land, fastpassing Space Mountain (standby was a 75 minute wait!!), then going to CA, riding Tower of Terror, fastpassing Soarin' over California, going to D-land, riding Matterhorn (which doesn't have a fastpass for some reason), coming BACK to CA, riding Soarin' over California, and finally coming back to D-land to use the fastpass on Space Mountain. After that we ate dinner at that Blue Bayou restaurant that's in the Pirates of the Carribbean ride. With Fastpass, park-hopping, and reservations (which were made the day before for the restaurant), a highly efficient and structured day of carefree, blissful Disney fun can be had.

    The logistics of walking around in a crowded theme park can be interesting. I find that being in a big crowd where everyone is going in different directions inspires me to try to walk fast and get to where I want to go quickly. Thus, I end up weaving a serpentine path through the crowd, watching out for people coming from different directions, knowing when to speed up to pass a slow-moving family or elderly couple, or when to get out of the way when some crazy teenagers zoom past you while squirting each other with water. One of the most unpredictable obstacles in crowds like this are kids about 10 and younger. These kids will be walking along in front of you at a normal pace, and then suddenly stop dead in their tracks in the middle of the walkway. If they're short enough, you might be able to just step over them, or swerve around them and maintain your pace, but sometimes you need to skid to a halt yourself. Other kids will be moving toward you from another direction, but will have their heads turned 90 degrees away from their forward direction, not looking at all where they are going. You need to treat these ones like robot drones that will keep on moving in a straight line and will likely run into you if you don't perform some evasive maneuvers. A side dodge or a contortionist-style body bend may be necessary to get around these kids without disrupting your path to Thunder Mountain.

    Another thing you come to notice when moving among thousands of other people and standing in lines for tens of minutes is the choices people make when it comes to bringing their kids to Disneyland. Personally, it seems to me that parents should use some thoughtful discretion when deciding when their kids are old enough to bring to the theme park. I say, if the kid is not old enough to walk around all day, the parents should wait till they are older. I saw so many parents struggling with strollers today, it made me vow that my kids will be able to come to disneyland when they can walk all over it. If they get tired, it's time to sit down, eat, or go home. If you're bringing a three-year-old with a stroller, chances are you'll just end up pushing a sleeping kid around crowded, tight spaces all day in the heat. Besides, it's expensive to go to theme parks these days; you might as well enjoy your time. Theme park kids should be strong, enduring, swift, and lithe enough to navigate the crowds, AND gracious enough to appreciate the fun without whining all day. I wonder if such ideal kids really exist?

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    First Blog

    Well, I have stood in wonder of my friends who write blogs for a while. What's the point of writing a blog? (for those who are confused: blog = short for "web log". It took me longer than I'd care to admit to realize that.) Is it just to record your thoughts and the events of your daily life, like a journal or diary? If so, why post it on the internet? Does the blogger post his or her thoughts so that they feel like other people are reading about them, and therefore acknowledging them? Is it sad for them to want/need that kind of acknowledgment? Or maybe it's just to maintain some low-cadence communication with friends and family, independent of their location. Is it to rant or rave about things they hate or love, and let the blogger feel like they said what was on their mind in a forum where others could hear them, but only if those others wanted to? These are the type of unanswered questions that kept me from having a web presence before. I think each blogger has their own reasons for putting their thoughts online, which may or may not fall into the narrow situations I asked about. Finally, I came up with a reason or two to have my own.

    I've found myself using my free (or, at least, bored) time to read my friends updates and posts to their online journals, and realized I enjoyed hearing about their daily lives. I guess it's encouraging to hear about people thinking things I might also think, or having experiences that are like my own. It reminds me that people are deep, funny, clever, clumsy, emotional, apologetic, passionate beings, not just drones who go to work, then go home then go to work then come home ad nauseum. I've heard many people say "I've got nothing interesting to say, so I shouldn't write a blog", and yet when I read some of my friends' blogs, I'm interested in hearing about the little things that they themselves might think are uninteresting.

    As I have reached my mid-twenties, I've begun to think about how I sort of wish I had kept a diary or journal growing up. I'd convinced myself that I don't have the time for or the interest in such things, which is not really true. I'd like to be able to look back on a day, years from now, and see what I was thinking about, how I was feeling, and what my hopes, dreams, and problems were at the time. I look back at anything written or said by my parents or grandparents when they were young, and I am fascinated. It's interesting to listen to or read someone's thoughts, and then see how life has changed them, or not, over time since then. Maybe it's a silly desire to want to preserve some of your youth (or lack thereof) in a journal, but I've been known to do sillier things.

    So there you go: a rambling explanation of why I might want to start a blog. I intend to use this blog to post my thoughts, be they deep or mundane, silly or serious. It will serve as my journal, and my bulletin board. As so many have said for so many reasons: we'll see how it goes.