SWARMS

Watching the people flock

To the Los Angeles food vendor

Is like watching the cockroaches

Swarming across the stairs.

The sizzling morsels,

Greedily devoured by

Greasy fingers and hungry mouths,

Are like crumbs for starving pests.

Oh, there are polite ones,

To be certain. They drift by

At a distance, with calm aloofness.

But the pack is like a mob,

And would turn on you

In a heartbeat, if it served them.

The screech of brakes

And the roar of horns;

Deafening to the average ear,

Remind me of our own insignificance.

That we are, at the heart of us,

Just another swarm of insects

Infesting the cracks in the world.

Our world, as we claimed it.

Though we have yet

To claim responsibility for it.

Oh hey I’m on vacation and can’t copy my normal stuff here.

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SCIENCE OR ART?

Hello everyone,

 

What’s more important to humanity: Science or Art? This is the type of question that polarizes peoples’ thinking. Science provides us avenues to a better life (or rather, a more efficient life, since it’s unclear that our species as a whole is happier now than it was before the industrial revolution). Art, on the other hand, gives us avenues to a more substantive life. Today I’m going to give you an argument for both, since there are many ways in which the two categories today do not overlap (and, of course, some where they do).

Let’s start with science, because I think in the modern era of iPhones, the Internet, mass food production, and other forms of scientific technologies, that’s the obvious “more important” choice. Let’s look at what science has given us. Well, math, so currency, exchange of goods, basic foresight into planning our needs. Science also gives us physics, biology, medicine, engineering, and a whole slew of different abilities. Some aspects of architecture require scientific precision. Pick up any object around you, and ask yourself if it would have been doable without some form of scientific knowledge. Seriously. Can you find one? Some of you may have picked up your children, but even your children probably required some sort of hospital care. Or their cloths required special fabrics to prevent rashes, or their diapers are made in a way that prevents leaking…the list goes on.

There’s even science to art. Go look at any classical artwork. Try Googling “Enlightenment Artwork.” It’s precise, and much less “imaginative” as, say, something by Jackson Pollock. Which isn’t to say it’s bad artwork, but it certainly makes art…different. Let’s look at literary artwork and “science.” Take Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets—any one of them. They are constrained to the form of iambic pentameter, with 14 lines that alternate end rhymes every four lines, with the last two lines rhyming with each other (if you’re adept in rhyme schemes, that ABABCDCDEFEFGG). It’s kind of a scientific way of creating a poem, right? Science gives life structure. It takes the chaos of the world, and makes it into something understandable, which, in many ways, is beautiful in and of itself.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you probably have also seen a lot of flaws in science that are undone by artwork. Take spirituality. Science sort of defeats spirituality, doesn’t it? I mean, science is in many ways a secular idea (not all, I know), which is why the church has often fought tooth and nail for its ideas against scientific progress. In that way, science is grounding. To contrast, art elevates thinking in many ways. Art is a form of flight in a world of grounded people. Isn’t that why we love books so much? They let us escape the doldrums of our world. I mean, people literally swear their lives on a book, and practice their lives around what the words in it say.

I spoke about how science encapsulated art, but art also encapsulates science. Let’s use engineering as an example. Engineering is what builds industry, yet the driving force behind it is imagination. It’s an artistic rendering of an idea. Think of Disneyland, and all the engineering that had to be done to make it work. Yet we don’t see Disneyland as some hulking behemoth of industry. Instead, we see it as a magical image of wonder made into real objects. The truth is, simply being efficient does not captivate a human audience. Rather, we have a need to be thrilled, which is why fireworks are made more and more beautiful ever year, rather than simply bigger and louder.

But of course, they both have value. I mean, it’s not like the world functions very well without one or the other. Which do you think is more valuable? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

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OUT OF TIME?

I have been wanting to talk about time for quite a while. We have taken time to be a quantifiable idea—I mean you can look at the phone in your pocket and check it pretty much whenever. Or right now, in the corner of your computer screen. You can definitively say, “oh hey, it’s 3:00. Cassady has posted another piece of writing for me to read!” People love to say things like “Time waits for no man,” and “it was only a matter of time before __________ happened.” And that’s fine. I mean, I wear a watch, I budget my time. I live on a schedule for my day-to-day life. And that’s fine. In many ways, by monitoring my time, I have a greater ability to do the stuff I want to do in my life. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t schedule my life (whoa so meta right?).

But time is something we take super seriously, and it shouldn’t be that way. Time is just a measurement of distance, speed, decay and human perception. Really, think about it. How do you know the length of a day? It’s one rotation of the Earth. That’s the distance it takes for one point on Earth to reach its starting point at a set speed. How do we know how long a year is? It’s one revolution of the Earth around the Sun. How do we know how old a fossil is? We check where it was buried, use science to deduce how long ago the rocks it was buried with formed, and estimate from there. Time isn’t that serious. It needs to sound serious so people will make it matter, but it isn’t that serious. Time is a human construct.

All these measurements don’t happen if people don’t exist. We’ve chosen to measure sunrise and sunset as the period in which we can do things. But think about it, out in space, how do you know when a day is over? Without a watch, you don’t. Now, sure, your body might be able to signal to you that you are tired due to thousands of years of evolutionary development. That’s a circadian rhythm. Though theoretically, if a human were devoid of Earthly experiences they may never have formed one. In which case, where does time exist in space? Well, it doesn’t really, because time is a human idea.

Now, you’re a smart person. You read through all this and said to yourself “yeah, duh. But I still have to get to work on time, or else I’d get fired.” And that’s great. I have two jobs and am a full time student. I know what you mean. But since human life is fleeting, I’d like for you to take this idea into consideration when you are reflecting on your own life. Is the time you have really worth sitting through traffic to get to your dead end job, everyday, for the rest of your life? Is it not reasonable to take the week off to see something you’ve never seen before? You’re not just a number, you’re a person. People are special. We have the ability to think for ourselves. You could get up and walk out of this room, right now and—wait come back! What I mean to say is that you can make choices for yourself that change the course of your life. Certainly, you should think of the ramifications, but don’t be so focused on “this will take me a week to do and I don’t have that kind of time, so it’s not worth doing.” Instead, start thinking about things as “I want (or don’t want) to do this. So I’m going to do it, and if it takes a year or a week, then so be it.”

——

 

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WATER IN A CUP

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Today I was watching the Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s interview of Obama. During it, they briefly talked about climate change, which of course is an important topic for many people—either positively or negatively. Now, I am a pretty strong believer that climate change is real, just like the vast majority of scientists out there. However, a lot of people do not believe it. So, today, I would like to address those people. And, I would like to start with a question.

Do you think the Earth is infinite? If you do, you should probably stop reading this because you are wasting your time. The Earth is not infinite. It is vastly bigger than you or I, but that does not make it infinite. If you can agree with me and you think that the Earth is measurable, then I would implore you to keep reading. Like all things measurable, the Earth has a distinct beginning and ending. Whether you believe it was created by God or a Big Bang doesn’t really matter to me. Just that you realize that, as it was created, so too will it eventually end. Sound fair? Ok, so, now I want you to think of all the water in the world. Put it all in a cup. One huge cup. Can you do that for me? If you get a big enough cup, you can. Right? Now put a drop of black arsenic into it. Doesn’t do anything right? But if you add a drop every day for a year, you have 365 drops. And if you do that every day, for 10 years, you have 3652.4 drops (leap years mess up math). Still, it does not really impact the water that much. You could probably mix that water around, take a sip, and be perfectly fine. But this is one person. One person does not make a massive impact on the scope of the Earth.

Now picture 7 billion drops, per day, every day, put into the water. Suddenly that adds up a lot quicker, doesn’t it? At what point is the arsenic water something of a hazard to you if you have to drink it? Now, this is a bit watered down (pardon the pun), but take this concept and apply it to every other aspect of human resource mining. Pollution of the air. Deforestation. The list goes on. That stuff doesn’t just go off into space. It hangs around here with us. You wouldn’t expect to live if you put your head in a bag for a few hours, would you? Eventually, you would suffocate, because you would burn through the oxygen in the bag and be left with something you could not breath. So why can’t this happen on Earth. Things don’t just get sucked back out into space—we wouldn’t be able to breath if that were the case, because all the oxygen would be gone.

The Earth is like a tracksuit. A little running isn’t a big deal. You will heat up for a minute, but when you stop running you will be fine. But if you keep running, the track suit itself will heat up too. And then when you stop running, the suit is still burning up. And eventually it will cool down, but before that you might be so unbearably hot that you have to take it off or it will kill you. We have been running for a long, long time. We used to be walking. But for the last hundred years, we have been sprinting. Sprinting so fast that our legs are heavy, and the tracksuit around us is burning up. And we can’t take it off until we stop running. Have you ever tried to take your cloths off while you were running? You either slow down to do it, or you fall flat on your face. So I impress upon you, if this all makes sense, even if there are minor holes in it, consider the possibility that we might need to do something about it.

ROSE

“Hello Rose!” a voice called out to me, shocking me out of my mind and back into the train. I was on the Metrolink, on my way home from work in Los Angeles. I would take this train to Baldwin Park, then drive a few blocks away to my house. Turning to the man that had called out to me, I noticed it was Michael, my good friend that I had met at a coffee parlor a few years back.

“Hey Mike. How’s it going?”

“Oh ya know, it’s going. What’d you do today at the office?”

“Mike, I told you, it’s not an office, it’s more of a lab.”

“Fine,” Michael raised his hands, admitting defeat, “What did you do at the lab today?” He put an extra emphasis on “lab,” as if to tease me. I took a deep breath.

“Well, we just finished the big Biomimicry project, and it should be ready for release in the next couple months. Everything at this point is up to marketing now.”

“Really?” Michael always was so excited by my engineering projects. It made me smile, “So do you think it came out alright?”

“It could have gone better. I don’t like that we couldn’t figure out a way to account for pregnancy well, but we have future iterations to fix that in. What I’m really excited for is my side project.” I looked off into the distance, past the woman struggling to keep her child still, at the sunset. The clouds were this beautiful hue of orange-red from the sun’s light on them. It was so peaceful.

“What project is that? This is the first I’ve heard of this.” Michael looked at me with curiosity, then smiled deviously, “is it a love machine? You can’t just compute someone into falling in love with you.” He laughed and I slapped his arm playfully.

“No stupid, I’ve been working on this thing that will help change the world,” Michael’s face settled on an expression somewhere between happy and tired. I leaned in toward him and lowered my voice to a whisper, “I’ve been working on a time machine. Well, it’s really more of a time displacement machine, but it works like you would imagine a time machine to work.”

“And you are doing this how…?” Michael got very serious as his voice trailed off. I blushed in embarrassment.

“Well the science still has a bit of a way to go before I can safely change when I am living, but I think I am close to breaking through. I’ve got all the math finished. It’s a long story that you aren’t going to understand if I go in depth.”

“Try me.” Michael boasted. I looked at him sarcastically.

“Ok, so the quantum mechanical theory is that you take the change in oxygen density to create a time zone, and then use that baseline to create and track the oxygen of other time periods, lock on to one, and then-“ Michael cut me off.

“Ok I was lost after quantum. But this is my stop, I’ll see you later.” He grabbed his bag, and stepped down the stairs and out of sight. I sat in silence for the remaining 15 minutes of my ride, before eventually reached my stop: 3825 Downing Avenue. I got off the train, walked straight to my Civic, and drove home. What I hadn’t gotten to tell Michael about was that tonight was the first dry run for time travel. Or that I had been working on this project at home. Or that I was going to be going to be aiming straight for George Washington’s timeline to get to know our first president. With all the orange-faced re-election talk, I thought it might be valuable to check in with one of our premier leaders in history.

I pulled into my driveway, hopped out of the car, and climbed the stairs to my front door. The old, wooden door creaked as I stepped into my little house, as it always did. I walked over to my fridge, poured a glass of milk, downed it, then poured a second glass for while I worked. I carried the glass with me over to the makeshift workshop I had put together. All in all, the machine wasn’t actually that big. In fact, once I realized how simple it was to move through time, I refined my original design so that the main device would fit on a table. I took another sip of milk, then set the glass on a well-worn coaster, and examined at the device.

It was about the size of a backpack, with silver and blue panels on the exterior to cover the grotesque mess of wires and lights on the inside, as well as a big red button. Everything was all in place. I turned it on, and a low whir started emanating from the middle, and I could feel the table vibrating with it as I set the machine down. It lit up like a snowflake reflecting in the sun, which was beautiful. To the left of the main machine was the most important part of the device—the anchor. I had designed it as a bracelet that was fashionable and subtle at the same time. It, like the machine itself, was blue and silver, except it was a bracelet, with stones that looked quite a bit like sapphires. I slipped it onto my left wrist, the reached over to the machine itself and adjusted the date to April 15th, 1757. I figured I should talk to Mr. Washington before all hell broke loose in the colonies. Then, I punched in “MOUNT VERNON” to the keypad on the device.

I realized my hands were shaking with excitement, and I took a deep breath. It was going to be ok. Sure, if my calculations were off I could go spiraling back to who knows what year, but at least I had set up a fail safe to pull me back after 7 days. My hand hovered over the big red button, which seemed almost ominous. I guess it was also possible that because of how I was dressed I might be thought of as a whore, or worse. I mean at least I’m wearing jeans, right? Or maybe I hadn’t calibrated the machine right, and I would end up 6 feet underground…no. I was definitely right. I had over compensated. If anything, I would end up a few feet off the ground. I took one more deep breath, closed my eyes, and hit the button.

Suddenly, my who body was twisting and turning. It felt like I was being squeezed into a tiny box and pulled apart from each limb at the same time. My breath left me in a hurry, like someone had punched me dead in the stomach, and I thought for a second I would pass out. Then, suddenly, I opened my eyes and I was out in a field, in broad daylight.