Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Night at the Improv

There's a moviehouse here in Seattle, that I've been to once before, called Twisted Flicks. Tonight Adrian and I went again. It is truly a unique experience, where really bad movies from the past are presented up on the screen, but without sound. A synth plays the music, and actors improvise the sound effects and speaking roles (and non-speaking growling, if necessary). To add to the challenge, the actors take suggestions from the audience, of items like a profession, a character trait, or a simple sentence, and incorporate these elements into the movie.

X From Outer Space tells the tale of a Japanese space crew investigating alien life on Mars, but the doctor on board gets sick when a flying chicken pot pie comes too close, and so they have to land on the Moon Base. Then they go on to Mars, but some asteroids that look like tribbles attach to the ship. Rather than going to Mars they decide to come back, and bring one of the tribbles with them. On Earth the tribble turns into an egg and hatches, and turns into a giant bird-reptile (considering their respective phylogenies, the most realistic part of the movie), rampaging through Tokyo and the Japanese wilderness, before it gets stopped by some clever goo they manufacture in outer space, which makes the monster look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy of Ghostbusters, before melting like the Wicked Witch of the West back into a tribble. That's the movie without any changes. Sorry if I gave anything away.

The Twisted Flicks crew did a great job tonight. I had a couple suggestions that I thought were awesome- for a character, a Scientology Auditer- those guys who determine what your level is in Scientology and how much money you need to pay them; and for a sentence, "Take me to the vivisection." However, neither of my ideas was picked- though I did get a reaction by one of the actors to the latter suggestion, namely that he thought he might be offended.

Three phrases from the audience begin and end the movie, with a phrase in the middle. The first line of the improv was therefore a command to "Don't forget the onions." as they unloaded the helicopter. Then throughout the actors just had fun with the movie. The two main female characters take a shower and drop the soap, and this in a 50's movie. So that was just asking for some additions. There was some great sound effects and music scores, such as "Suicide is Painless" as the helicopter rose and everyone ran around below. The monster growled out Communist platitudes during it's destruction of Tokyo, but then as it's in the middle of the wilderness, obviously around no humans or any structures, it complains about being hopelessly lost. But my favorite bits were probably when the astronauts are looking out at the planet as they leave orbit, commenting on the beauty of the Earth. The planet looks like a giant round rock.

"But I don't see the atmosphere."

"I don't see the continents either."

"I don't think that's the Earth guys. I think that's the moon."

Oh, and when the small Toyota crashed and burst into flames, a voice is heard from the car.

"OnStar. Are you okay?"

Friday, 26 January 2007

The Faith of Jonah

A lot of struggles recently. One right after the other. But before I get into that, new blog posts: one of my first trips with others in Morocco, to Shalalat d'Ouzoud, the Olive Waterfalls, is now posted, along with my trip to exotic Mauritania.

Just some of the struggles relate to work. Or the lack of it. I found out from the Pacific Science Center that they were looking for someone with more Elementary experience. Later that same day the Friends school in Brummana, Lebanon wrote back less than 48 hours after I sent in application materials, to say that they wouldn't be hiring me because it was unlikely that I would be able to get a work permit, as I couldn't do a job that a Lebanese person can do. (Evidently it is fairly easy to find English-speaking Lebanese Biology teachers, and one needs a Masters and more than 5 years experience teaching to be likely to therefore get a permit, if they are not Lebanese.) Oh, and some temp agencies hadn't been searching for work for me for the last two months because they hadn't gotten my references straightened out. But they forgot to tell me about that when I called in every week. And I'm left trying to figure out how I'll pay the rent.

It's times like this I need to look back on the promises I received before. I increasingly find that that is the key to the Kingdom of God- not believing He exists (too easy), not having the right morals, not giving away all my possessions- but trusting that He is out for us, all of us, and is on our side. Sometimes it seems like that's all I've got. Reading up on Jonah before a monthly Quaker Bible Study I'm struck anew at his fear- fear not of the Ninevites, but fear that God would show mercy to his enemies. For all that we lambast Jonah for doing the wrong thing, that guy had faith. He knew with such certainty that God was merciful and good that he ran as far away as possible so that God wouldn't show mercy to the people Jonah hated.

His story inspired me to get more work done on the primary goal I'm feeling called to, and I'm now waiting to hear back from professors at various schools to see if they fit with my goals. U BC is off the list, as they don't seem to fit with my research interests. U PR might be off too, as there's the question of if they teach in English enough. But I got a new lead from a professor at U Guam that looks promising- U of Warwick in Britain, which has some professors working in the Red Sea on intertidal ecology in marine reserves. And U Guam is very inviting; the director there said he thinks it very probable that I would benefit from their program.

And then I got a letter from Highline Medical, one of the two $3,000 bills I have from the kidney stones. Highline was processing how much they were going to require me to pay of the bill. To add to everything else, they told me that I would be required to pay all of zero dollars of the bill.

Yeah, that's right! Now what kind of God do we serve?!

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Here there be Dragons.

OK Joe, you win. I don't like the weather here anymore.

I think I've lost track of how many snows it's been. Typical winter in Seattle is two. 1/2 way through the winter and we've had at least four. That doesn't include the major wind storms and floods either. To say nothing of persistent grey skies with intermittent rain. The significant amount of the snowfall from four days ago still remained in the subzero temperatures (Celsius in the day and Fahrenheit at night) when we received another bout last night. With frozen streets I saw at least two stalled buses within a few blocks of my place earlier this morning, adding to the hellish commutes that car drivers have been facing these last few days. And they say with Global Warming, the NorthWest is going to be hit the worst out of anywhere in the United States, so things are only going to get worse.

Me, I celebrated. Some kids were in the process of putting up a rather gigantic snowman, and I thought I'd celebrate my cultural diversity with a Nordic snowdragon. Traditionally a candle is planted inside the mouth so that the glow of the inner fires can be clearly seen.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Naked Mole Rats

It was on an extremely cold day, hovering just above 0 Celsius, that I headed out to the interview at the Pacific Science Center for their Science on Wheels program. It's a job that I think would be perfect for me- traveling around Washington State, 1-3 weeks at a time, visiting schools and sharing about science. The chance to travel would be great- it's something I dearly miss doing since moving back from Morocco. The part-time position lasts until late May, but is haphazard days, and part-time. But then I heard three days ago that there was a full-time position opening up as well, which would be wonderful- it would pay enough, and it would be a really fun job.

But before I forget- I've now blogged my entire Hawaii trip from the Summer before I began blogging, or What I did with my Professional Development Funds. (Don't tell Barb.)

I think I'm uniquely suited for the job, but the interview was hard. I think I made a good connection, with some nice humor. They wanted me to bring in an item for show-and-tell, and I wanted to bring the Bat Ray skeleton that I had caught, killed, stripped, cleaned, and then treated to harden (as it's all cartilage). But at the last moment I discovered the superglue I'd bought didn't work on the paraffin-treated cartilage. So I went with my clay pig I bought in Morocco instead. It allowed me to discuss my love or pigs, and about pigs, as well as uniquely Moroccan culture, where they can say pigs are haram, forbidden, but wild pigs are okay to hunt and eat, with even the King hunting them, though they are the same species as domestic pigs, Sus scrofa.

But that wasn't the hardest part of the interview- there were numerous other aspects, one in particular, that I'm guessing are proprietary so I won't repeat them. I'd really love to get the position, but it remains to be seen if they feel I am the best candidate for it or not. I'll hear back later this month.

But afterwards I got to take a trip through the Science Center, something I'd neglected to do last time I was there to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was actually more instructional than I'd realized; I'd always imagined the PSC was more of a natural history museum. (Sorry- as I was not expecting to visit the Center, so no pics.) Everywhere there are interactive hands-on exhibits and shows, like live boa constrictors, insects (far too many gigantic live cockroaches from South America), the world's largest electric guitar, and animatronic dinosaurs. Very fun was a hurricane wind booth that lets you experience winds up to 78 mph, for that classic wind blown look.

Two exhibits I'd highlight as especially interesting. The first was the Butterfly House. That's gotta be the coolest job at the Science Center. It's a small room, warm, humid, with hundreds of butterflies fluttering everywhere around you. You can come up close and easily identify them, watching as they feed on oranges and banana skins. I saw Monarchs there easily enough too. If you're patient enough, they'll come and alight on you, so you have to be de-butterflied when you leave. And one has to watch their step, as they sit on the ground drinking from the puddles.

Then later on, the most wicked exhibit of all, the naked mole rats! They have a live colony there, all crawling around these giant plastic tubes, so you can see what it's like for them when they live underground in E Africa. Naked Mole Rats are not rats, moles, or naked. They look naked however- their small sensory hairs are hard to identify. Think a Canadian Hairless Cat, but smaller. They chew through the ground using two large buck teeth, with lips closed behind the teeth so no dirt can get in. They work together to remove dirt, passing it back behind them to the next mole rat, ala The Great Escape. Indeed, they are famous in the animal kingdom for being the only eusocial mammals. Like bees, they have only one breeding female queen, and the rest of the "hive" then supports her, working in various capacities as male breeders, guards, or diggers. They are also unique in being the only ectotherms, incapable of maintaining an internal body temperature and relying on warm and cold areas of their burrows to do that for them.

It was just really neat to sit there watching them as about 40 mole rats climbed around their tubes, trying to identify the queen who has a longer backbone than the rest. (When she dies another female develops a longer backbone and becomes queen.) Sometimes one mole rat would come up to the edge where a guard mole rat was, and there would be a bit of a scuffle between them. Evidently this helps prepare the mole rats in case their burrows are attacked. (They're not aware that this possibility is no longer likely in the Pacific Science Center.) Sometimes one would be going one way, and come to three going the other way, and they would all push against each other and tumble against each other. Occasionally this would result in a small one getting on it's back, pitifully mewing out until it righted itself. And threw this all there is a persistent scratching, like something out of Poe or a horror movie. It is the mole rats slowly chewing threw concrete blocks, provided for them to wear down their teeth on- but they think it's the last area of their burrow that needs to be expanded.

Monday, 8 January 2007

The Postman Rings Twice

Two items of mail just arrived. I received the final result of Congressman Adam Smith's generous investigation into the actions of Homeland Security when I returned to America. This marks probably the end of it- I really wasn't expecting much to happen. Homeland wrote to say that they were really sorry for any inconvenience, but they have to search people at times, and computers. They didn't really address all the issues I raised- that I had no problem with them searching and detaining me, but rather that they searched my personal computer files extensively without asking me or telling me. But happily, I did learn it is now legal in the United States of America to search computer files without a warrant. (I need to find a good Canadian wife. Go join the Land of the Free.)

I also received the final score on the General GRE back. (Bio GRE results still pending.) Got only a 6 on the writing/analysis. Maximum possible is a 6.

Yeah, Baby!

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Merry Christmas!

Today was my annual Christmas celebration, for the Eastern Orthodox Christmas, on the 7th (unless you're in Armenia, in which case it's on the 6th, I still don't understand why). As with last year, I gathered a few from my church and we looked at some of the Eastern traditions, talking about their focus on II Peter 1.4, that Christ became human that we might become divine. Therefore Christmas is the central part of soteriology for them, not Easter. The pivotal moment is when He transformed the nature of reality and thereby transforming us. I read from Psalm 51 in the Orthodox chanting style, as I learned from attending Orthodox services in the mornings at Fuller. And then we had a choral reading of The Story of the Other Wiseman, each taking a chapter of the slim 70 page book.

I love this story. It is so moving, so multi-layered. I think it is the finest book or movie of Christmas (and Easter) I know of- the story of what happened to the fourth Wiseman, when he got left behind, and how he searched for the King of the Jews, and found Him in a quite unexpected way. I cry every time I read it.

Adam was one of those attending the Eastern Christmas Party last year, and I had the deep honor of seeing him again, with his Sweetums (And are they cute together or what?!), as he stopped by Seattle while staying in Tacoma over the holidays. It was just really neat to see someone from Morocco again, to catch up, to share. A true blessing, over Mexican and excellent horchata.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

It's a New Year in Canada

As soon as I arrived in Canada Paul & Lydia, who I last saw at the community reunion, took me to a unique Canadian cultural institution. It struck me how much more normal it was there for anyone to walk into a liquor store, as oppose to the States where it's usually only poorer rungs of society who buy their liquor there.

New Years was fairly quiet, getting to see Autumn and Dylan and their kids, enjoying each other's company and playing games. When it got dark around 4 (on the shortest day of the year), I realized how much I'd grown used to living at the same latitude as San Diego- and how much I missed that. We engaged in the four primary Canadian pasttimes: watching hockey, beer, talking about peace, and bashing America. In the second hour we went out to see one of the places I lived once- I hadn't realized how close it was to Paul & Lydia- and the place where I first learned how to swim. It's a small campground right next to the lake near Abbotsford. The house where the community all lived is still there as well.

Our house.

After the trip we went out to see bald eagles, finding about 15 of them in the short Paul & his granddaughter, Djambedrive. It was my first time seeing them close-up in the wild, or being able to observe their feet.

And a first time to see the remains of salmon as well- I'd always thought they died much further upstream. But there are evidently many remains in the streams close to Abbotsford, all displaying supersenescence, that aging process which is the destiny of all salmon where their heads become covered with fungus, they can't osmoregulate any longer, the thyroid and pituitary fail, the immune system degenerates, and they generally feel rather beat up by life.