Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Moons of Saturn

Another cool movie has been released by NASA. This one is of three moons of Saturn as viewed by the Cassini spacecraft.

The center (and largest) moon is Rhea, and it is the closest. Further away is Mimas, the moon on top, and even further away (yet larger in size than the top moon)is Enceladus. Check out the link to see the movie in motion and learn more about it.

Fun fact: Enceladus (the bottom moon) has been discovered to have sub-surface liquid water beneath its icy crust. The fact that this water sometimes escapes the surface (cryovolcanism) provides water molecules into the space surrounding the moon, and these water molecules become ionized by sunlight and travel through Saturn's magnetosphere. What an amazing system!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Proofs that God exists

Disclaimer: I don't mean to offend anyone (yeah, all 10 million of you who read my blog).

My friends know (or maybe some of them don't) that I am agnostic when it comes to religion. I used to be a devout and faithful Catholic. Nowadays I'm not convinced by most of the arguments for the veracity of much of the mythology of Christianity or even the existence of God. I agree with many of the take home messages from Christianity (the Golden rule: treat others as you'd like to be treated, etc.), but I just don't subscribe to the stories of how the universe is set up. I prefer to claim ignorance and openly admit there are so many things that we don't understand. I don't need to substitute a God of the gaps in order to make the universe sit right with me, I just admit that I don't know. So I'm not an atheist either, because I think it's impossible to prove categorically that a God doesn't exist, and that wouldn't be scientific either.

All that said, I thought this website was funny:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dive Pics

Click for dive pics at Flickr

From Catalina a week ago sunday. I think I need an external strobe to get rid of the backscatter and brighten things up. All in good time, I suppose.

Thank goodness for Garibaldi.

Roller Coasters

Reg and I went to Magic Mountain last Thursday, and we got to ride the latest thrill machine: Tatsu. A huge and innovative roller coaster where you lie on your stomach, the train hangs down from an overhead track, and you get the feeling of flying like superman. It’s also cool because you are able to do the type of loop where you start off straight, then pitch down all the way over like a somersault, completely opposite the way most roller coasters loop. It was awesome.

I've always loved roller coasters.

They have a quasi-special meaning for me. My dad grew up in the tiny city of Fillmore in Ventura County, and so my grandparents and cousins on my father's side always lived there. Growing up, about once a year or so, we would add a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain to the end or beginning of a weekend Fillmore visit. When I was very young, it was mainly about bugs bunny world and cotton candy. But when I was about 8 years old (that's a guess), Dad suggested the idea of going on one of the "big roller coasters". At this time in history, the biggest of the "big roller coasters" was Colossus. A huge, beautiful dual-track white wooden roller coaster that stood as the boundary between the amusement park and the parking lot, challenging anyone to survive it. I was just tall enough for the top of my hair to reach the "riders must be this tall" line. I was a little nervous about it, but I wanted to be brave like Dad, so I said ok.

The line was long, and it was just after dusk. The boarding station was a good 100 ft or so from the start of the coaster structure itself, so one could easily see the train departing toward the structure with its intrepid warriors, and returning with frazzled, laughing passengers. I kept the knot in my stomach mostly under control as we finally climbed into the train seats. Then it was out, away from the din of hundreds of people conversing, away from the sticky ground and dirty hand rails and rushing teenagers and Warner Brothers costumes, and up, slowly, into the windy sky. At that time, the top of the first drop of Colossus, at a little over 100 feet, was the highest point in the park, aside from the sky tower elevator. We could see the whole park; yet for all the visual lights and liveliness, the only audible sounds were the KA-CHUK KA-CHUK of the chain and tracks beneath our feet, and the low whoosh of the breeze. Then it came: the drop. I had really never done anything like this in my young life. Space and Thunder mountain at Disneyland were fun, but they produced nowhere near this level of dread and thrill in me. My stomach seemed to vibrate and resonate with the feeling of weightlessness as we plummeted down amid the screams of the other passengers. It was an odd thing to be feeling a very intense sensation, and have absolutely no control over it. Then it was back up, around, and down again as we made our way through the labyrinthine structure. I didn't scream at first, mainly because I didn't really know what to do in this state of thrill and distress except grit my teeth and hang on. My dad yelled at me before the next drop: "Scream, David! Just let it out! WOOHOOO!". And I did. It let me loose to enjoy the rest of the ride. It wasn't about fear anymore, but gusto. The giant wooden Colossus had challenged me, and I was answering its challenge. As the train left the structure and slowed down, heading back to the boarding station, Dad told me he was proud of me for being so brave (though I hadn't felt very brave at all before he said it).

That ride was all I could talk about for weeks, and from then on I would never shy away from any ride at an amusement park. It may sound cheesy, but I think that first ride on Colossus with my dad helped me to adopt an adventurous attitude about life. What had seemed like a scary challenge proved instead to be a worthwhile and thrilling experience. I feel like I’ve applied that outlook to other thrills in life. Whether it was going skiing for the first time (spending most of that day alone, with my closest companion being the hard icy slopes that were more than happy to smack me in the face repeatedly), learning to SCUBA dive in college, going skydiving or bungee jumping. Something scary out there? Give it a shot! Embrace the challenges, be they physical or otherwise, as part of life. I don’t know what happens after I die, so I’d better pack all the fun things I can into this life.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gay marriage

It's been a while since my last entry, and a lot has happened since then. I hope to post a blog about my trip to Puerto Rico soon. In the mean time, I was spurred to post about a news story I saw on

Again, I don't intend for this blog to become very political, but politics is (however unfortunately) a part of human life and cannot really be divorced from it, so to speak. But rather than give this article the knee-jerk political response I'd like to, perhaps it would be good to do some contemplation on the situation.

Bush and senate Republicans back Constitutional Gay Marriage Ban proposal.

Bush brought up the idea of a constitutional gay marriage ban before the last presidential election. After he was re-elected in 2004, the idea was not really mentioned again, implying to me that it was just a political move to guarantee him the presidential vote from religious conservatives. Now here we are in another election year, this time for congress, and the idea of a constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage is back in the headlines. It appears the move is once again political: the amendment does not really have a chance of passing, as it would require a 2/3 majority vote in both Houses of Congress, and approval by 3/4 of the states. The GOP may have a majority in both houses, but they are still not strong enough to railroad a constitutional amendment.

Plus, many states already have this definition of marriage in their own laws. Shouldn't this be an issue that's left up to the states under the 10th amendment?

So what's the point of supporting this and Bush making a big statement about it, if the legislation won't pass? Politics. It seems to me that the Bush administration is going all-in. Support this idea again this year, polarize the voters again, and do all you can to maintain a Republican majority in congress. That way, even if the democrats get the presidency in '08, you've still got Congress.

What a game. The ends justify the means, I suppose.

As far as the idea of banning gay marriage itself, I'd say that it's an antiquated case of bigotry. The reason it's contraversial is because Americans have been so used to the idea of male-female marriage for so long that even those who would never try to prohibit marriage between a male-female couple of another race would think twice about allowing a male-male couple to wed.

Now here's an idea that's a bit uncomfortable: is this a slippery slope? If a state agrees to recognize a gay couple, should it also recognize a polygamous family unit? Why not? If traditional male-female couple should not be held high above other types of family, then why should a monogamous gay couple be welcomed into the club of recognized unions, but not a polygamous family? Perhaps it's better to say that all monogamous marriages are equal. . . but they are more equal than polygamous ones. . .? A bit unsettling, if you ask me.