genus Hippocampus

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Fight or Flight

A couple of weeks ago, on our flight from Sydney to San Francisco, my partner in fighting crime turned to me as we flew over the Opera House and said, “It’s unbelievable that we’ll be home in 13 hours. And that something this big flies.”

For me, it’s unbelievable that my simmering, paralyzingly fear of flying has somehow given way to a job involving 75% travel, frequent flyer perks on multiple airlines, and a two-year long distance relationship with a person from another hemisphere.

Stoked by my parents’ long-running refusal to board the same flight and my own general propensity for the neurotic, my fear of flying grew suffocating during college. Like any phobia, it festered the more I avoided the trigger. Those tickets to Miami for Ultra my Junior year? Cancelled, had to study an extra weekend for Orgo (… riiight.) Jamaica for Senior Year Spring Break? Remember how my passport just didn’t seem to come in time?

When I moved from New York to California three years ago, leaving my family and friends more than a train ride behind, I stopped making excuses and started making a plan. That’s actually giving myself way too much credit, I really just forced myself to start getting on planes. Pathetically, it’s probably one of the harder things I’ve ever done.

Every time I flew I found myself confronting death, and my lack of power over the situation, and my complete and utter blindness as to what could be going on in the cockpit, or the engines, or the cargo hold, or the fuselage, or the instrument panel, or the air traffic control tower, or, oh lord, the list goes on and on. I’ll never forget standing in the Denver airport after a ski weekend last year, waiting to board my flight, holding Greg’s hands and shaking, crying, trying to explain “rationally” how I knew I was about to die…. Side note, this one’s obviously a keeper.

It’s difficult to sustain that level of anxiety when you spend up to 3 days a week on a plane. Like the pain of letting go of a past love, one day I woke up and it was just gone, and sometimes I kind of miss it. I guess I have Palantir and Greg to thank for the “exposure therapy.” I think I sought these two out in particular because I knew they’d terrify me into becoming stronger.

Today, I think about all the things flying has given me. The miracle of flight. I’ll never forget when I was little, sitting in the cockpit next to my Dad, positively beaming because he thought I was smart enough, “engineer enough,” to get a pilot’s license just like him. I’ll never forget the smell of smoke at the Mumbai airport, meeting Greg’s parents at O.R. Tambo, when my Mom showed me Paris for the first time, or when Greg and I couldn’t find a single damn beer at the Frankfurt airport. I’ll never forget my best friend Mac’s model planes on his dresser, or how my Dad’s hair looks grayer every time he picks me up at Dulles on Thanksgiving.

I will never forget the sheer blankness I felt when I first saw South Africa. Processing error. White noise. Does not compute. This place- so “other” in maps, books, and photos- suddenly became dirt and air and trees and roads just like mine back home. Matt and Kim have this great line, “show me the sidestreets in your life…” How could your sidestreets exist, upside down and backwards, just like mine, all these years, and I had no idea? Almost never knew you? This sudden rush at how impossible this all was, like two marbles rolling towards each other, one from Africa one from America, then passing each other inches apart in Philadelphia, then rolling apart again toward California and New York, then back again, almost touching on the same floor in the same building in Palo Alto, until they finally struck each other with a satisfying glassy little *click* next to the drinking fountain. 

Today, as I dutifully fasten my seatbelt and look around for my nearest exit, I weigh my odds as I do on every flight since 9/11… Old habits die hard. It’s a Wednesday, not a Tuesday, but it is the first flight out so opportunities for media coverage throughout the day are still high. It’s a short flight though, so we’re not carrying much fuel. And let’s face it, there aren’t many sentimental landmarks around here even if we were.

I’m not one to share my weaknesses or fears with people I hardly know. But today, 12 years later, I believe sharing our weaknesses and fears with perfect strangers is the only way to grow stronger. I believe what unites us is our mortality and our human resolve to fight, to invent, and to win.

I will never forget that we are the intended casualty. I will never forget I’m lucky to fly.

I will never forget.

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Going live tomorrow, SceneTap will use creepy facial recognition technology to tell us the realtime male:female ratio at bars throughout SF, among other useful tidbits of information. Imagine how much we’ll save on cover!! 

Going live tomorrow, SceneTap will use creepy facial recognition technology to tell us the realtime male:female ratio at bars throughout SF, among other useful tidbits of information. Imagine how much we’ll save on cover!! 

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Sincerely Causes: Stop CISPA

Electronic Frontier Foundation shared this link on Facebook just now. I found it cool on two levels.

1) Sincerely is kind of like Apple’s “Cards” functionality in glossy, postcard, be-forewarned-does-not-come-in-an-envelope-so-don’t-let-your-boyfriend-send-to-your-office form. I like what they do, and I think Sincerely Causes is an interesting extension of a fun service.

2) Also fun and interesting: keeping private info out of the hands of the government. Civil liberties just cannot be the cost of protecting intellectual property.  

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futurejournalismproject:

Getting Started With Data

Hilary Mason, Bitly’s data chief, gives advice on how to get started in data science, from finding a buddy to tutorials you can watch and books you can read.

Bonus: Why you don’t need to be a math whiz.

(via poptech)

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This is exceedingly cool… mapping the distribution of 2010 U.S. Census data. Surprises? (Lack thereof?) 

This is exceedingly cool… mapping the distribution of 2010 U.S. Census data. Surprises? (Lack thereof?) 

2 notes

So many things I love about this article on Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd, and her efforts to encourage women to pursue and stick with Computer Science. The subject of the article itself is great, of course. How many times have you felt the following in an introductory math or hard science course? 

“Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.”

For me, that experience reinforced the feeling that, from Day 1, I was already behind. I was already useless. I’m not advocating that a class should be “dumbed down” of course. The geeky know-it-alls who have been passionate from a young age deserve intellectually-stimulating coursework. But students who truly require instruction in the basic fundamentals benefit from a supportive introduction to a difficult subject, not an alienating one. I think Harvey Mudd’s approach to CS 5 shows that a course can accommodate both. 
I also love the peek into the relationship between Dr. Pippenger and Dr. Klawe (married.) I found it an encouraging depiction of a successful, supportive relationship between two exceptionally intelligent and accomplished people. Real-life Clara Clayton and Doc Brown?
Wait no, I want to be that… 

So many things I love about this article on Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd, and her efforts to encourage women to pursue and stick with Computer Science. The subject of the article itself is great, of course. How many times have you felt the following in an introductory math or hard science course? 

Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.”

For me, that experience reinforced the feeling that, from Day 1, I was already behind. I was already useless. I’m not advocating that a class should be “dumbed down” of course. The geeky know-it-alls who have been passionate from a young age deserve intellectually-stimulating coursework. But students who truly require instruction in the basic fundamentals benefit from a supportive introduction to a difficult subject, not an alienating one. I think Harvey Mudd’s approach to CS 5 shows that a course can accommodate both. 

I also love the peek into the relationship between Dr. Pippenger and Dr. Klawe (married.) I found it an encouraging depiction of a successful, supportive relationship between two exceptionally intelligent and accomplished people. Real-life Clara Clayton and Doc Brown?

Wait no, I want to be that… 

0 notes

A long-time fan, I’m particularly grateful now to have had the pleasure of seeing Earl Scruggs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this summer in Golden Gate Park. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” is one of those soundtrack-to-your-life kind of songs.
Rest in sweet, sweet banjo twang, Earl Scruggs!

A long-time fan, I’m particularly grateful now to have had the pleasure of seeing Earl Scruggs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this summer in Golden Gate Park. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” is one of those soundtrack-to-your-life kind of songs.

Rest in sweet, sweet banjo twang, Earl Scruggs!

1 note


I want to build you a treehouse.I want to haul uneven planks up into the branches.I want to build us walls and windows and beams.I want to hammer old shingles to the roof and hang fading curtains.   I want you to wonder where I’ve been running off to.I want to take your hand with my splintered fingersand guide you there, around the roots and rotting logs.Standing on my tiptoes reaching up to your faceI want to cover your eyes with my dirty palms.I want my arms and hands and legs and backto ache as I swing up the ladder behind you.I would stock an icebox with our favorite things.Dry chicken, apple cider vinegar, bunny greensBerries for me and beer for you and four bottles of wine. No one would walk through our part of the woodsbut even if they did, they wouldn’t think to look up here.I want to be safe and alone and cradled by the treesand to talk to you for ever.I want to listen to your laugh travel through the treetopsand to listen to the birds when there’s nothing to say.I want to fall asleep in the darkness on a too-hard mattress to your breathing in my ear and the breeze in the leaves. I want to wake up in the chill of the dew your limbs stretched across my body like beams of sunlight. I want to tie a big brown rope around a branch and make you a tire swing. I want to sit forehead-to-forehead with our feet dangling through the middle like eight-year-olds on the playground. I want to wind us up and let us go so you can see the world the way I do.Just a mess of swirling colorsand your clear, smiling face.

I want to build you a treehouse.

I want to haul uneven planks up into the branches.
I want to build us walls and windows and beams.
I want to hammer old shingles to the roof and hang fading curtains.   
I want you to wonder where I’ve been running off to.

I want to take your hand with my splintered fingers
and guide you there, around the roots and rotting logs.
Standing on my tiptoes reaching up to your face
I want to cover your eyes with my dirty palms.
I want my arms and hands and legs and back
to ache as I swing up the ladder behind you.

I would stock an icebox with our favorite things.
Dry chicken, apple cider vinegar, bunny greens
Berries for me and beer for you and four bottles of wine.

No one would walk through our part of the woods
but even if they did, they wouldn’t think to look up here.
I want to be safe and alone and cradled by the trees
and to talk to you for ever.
I want to listen to your laugh travel through the treetops
and to listen to the birds when there’s nothing to say.

I want to fall asleep in the darkness on a too-hard mattress
to your breathing in my ear and the breeze in the leaves.
I want to wake up in the chill of the dew
your limbs stretched across my body like beams of sunlight.

I want to tie a big brown rope around a branch
and make you a tire swing.
I want to sit forehead-to-forehead
with our feet dangling through the middle
like eight-year-olds on the playground.
I want to wind us up and let us go
so you can see the world the way I do.
Just a mess of swirling colors
and your clear, smiling face.

1 note

Cool infographic showing the processes and parts of the brain involved in memory. Especially if yours is photographic! 

Cool infographic showing the processes and parts of the brain involved in memory. Especially if yours is photographic! 

0 notes

When you were a munchkin, did you ever plan vacations by spinning a globe with your eyes closed and poking your finger somewhere? I may have thought New England was a state until I applied to college, but I do owe my superior knowledge of islands in the Pacific to this technique.
I think I’m going to start using this site to do that. Who’s up for tiger hunting in Boulder, CO?

When you were a munchkin, did you ever plan vacations by spinning a globe with your eyes closed and poking your finger somewhere? I may have thought New England was a state until I applied to college, but I do owe my superior knowledge of islands in the Pacific to this technique.

I think I’m going to start using this site to do that. Who’s up for tiger hunting in Boulder, CO?