Constructive Creativity

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Questions and Answers

A few weeks ago, my friend Hnk, who lives in Mosul, Iraq, posted the answers to some questions that she had received from her sister Najma. The questions were divided into categories requiring the recipient to list seven things for each category. The final part was to list seven people who she wanted to answer the questions. Actually, Hnk only listed three, but that's ok since I was one of the lucky new recipients. :) I e-mailed her that I would think about the questions and try to answer them. That was several weeks ago. Hey, I've been really busy! However, as I always try to keep my promises, I have finally drawn up my list of answers below. I must confess that I would probably give at least some different answers if I was talking to my best friend instead of writing in a public blog, but, I hope that my visitors, and especially Hnk, will appreciate them anyway.

Before moving on to my answers, I would just like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my young blog friends in Iraq. I have been reading Iraqi blogs for more than a year now. At first, I was trying to learn more about what was really going on inside of Iraq after the U.S. invasion (which, as some of you already know, I considered a very dubious endeavor from the beginning!). However, after a short time, I became really enthralled by the personal stories of the blog writers. So many people in Iraq have suffered the loss of loved ones, or at least of people that they knew, including most of my blog friends. I often felt rather helpless and wished that I could do something to make the situation there a little better. Finally, I realized that there was something that I could do. I could write positive and encouraging comments and e-mails. So, for the past year, I have read and responded and tried to be a good friend by providing a bit of light for some good people passing through a frequently dark time. Several of my Iraqi friends and links to their blogs are listed on the left side of this page (also here in the post for convenience). They are Hnk, Dalia, Raghda, and Maas. Hnk writes about her life, her school, her travels, and her feelings. Dalia is Hnk's cousin who lives in Baghdad. She is a wonderful artist and has posted some of her drawings. Raghda is another of Hnk's cousins who also lives in Baghdad. She likes to post pictures and stories about cats. There are so many cute kitten pictures at her blog! :) Maas is Hnk's best friend in Mosul. Maas likes to post puzzles for her readers to ponder (Dalia usually solves them before me!). Hnk's sister Najma is a bit older and is very smart. She writes very much like a journalist sometimes, reporting on what is going on in her part of Mosul. I have not talked much with Najma, but I do read her blog frequently. Anyway, I hope that you will find these blogs interesting. And now, on to my answers to the questions:

Seven things I plan to (or wish I could) do:

1. Visit California to see Giant Redwood and Sequoia trees. Actually, I like any sort of huge and ancient tree. There are so few left in the world. :( There is a story that I have heard from the time of the Roman Empire. The Emperor Caligula is said to have ordered the cutting down of a truly ancient chestnut tree called "The Tree of 100 Horses". I have wondered if the name literally meant that it took 100 horses to form a ring around the tree's trunk! Assuming a Roman horse to be 8 feet long, this would give the tree a diameter of 250 feet. This is a bit incredulous! Perhaps the tree could shelter 100 horses under its branches. That I could believe. Anyway, according to the story, Caligula ordered that the lumber from the tree be used to build a huge floating brothel, with the "working girls" being none other than the wives of the Roman Senators! If you would like to see some pictures of one of the world's largest living trees check out this link. The tree is a Montezuma Bald Cypress living in Oaxaca, Mexico and is estimated to be 2000 years old! I think this tree could be called "The Tree of 100 Children" (see the picture). :)

2. Build a house. In my mind, I see soaring vaults of stone and concrete, but this may be a bit grandiose! Perhaps I should start with a small log cabin. :)

3. Travel to more interesting places around the world. I have been to Italy and South Korea. Talking about soaring vaults, the ancient Pantheon in Rome is one of the most incredible structures that I have ever seen! It has an unreinforced concrete dome that spans more than 100 feet and it was constructed more than 1800 years ago! The tour of the Vatican was also quite awe inspiring! The enormity of the spaces inside of St. Peter's was truly amazing, as was the unrestored beauty of Michaelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel. As for South Korea, it is a country of dramatic contrasts. Seoul, its capital, is a gigantic city with more than 10 million people crowded together. I have never seen so much traffic in any city that I have visited. The constant honking of horns was what I remember most about driving with my friend or riding the city buses. In the Korean countryside, I saw poverty the like of which I have never experienced in the U.S.: farming families that lived in small mud houses surrounded by flooded fields of rice. One great memory from that trip was a visit to Solag Mountain. This is a beautiful place in Korea to see a large area of unspoiled nature. I hiked the mountain trails with my friend up to an ancient Buddhist Temple. Along the way, groups of young school children (mostly girls) giggled and pointed at me, a few even had the courage to wave and say hello (in English to my surprise!). When I waved back and returned the salutation, there was much more giggling. :) I saw hundreds of people there that day, but I was the only non-Korean. It was obviously a very special place to Koreans that few Americans have probably ever seen. I felt privileged to have a Korean friend to take me there.

4. Write a publishable work of fiction. Some of the people that I most admired growing up were the masters of science fiction and fantasy whose stories I read. Those stories fired my imagination and came alive in my mind! As for writing my own book, I am realistic: I am not yet up to that challenge, but maybe some day...

5. Visit my last remaining grandparent in the near future. My father's mother is 91 years old and is not in very good health. She lives in Tucson, Arizona. The environment in and near the city is really beautiful, with many green desert plants, and a number of tall mountains which form a partial ring around the city.

6. Strive to reach a level of self-actualization. This is a psychological term that describes a person who is using his or her abilities to the fullest extent possible and who has also found happiness and satisfaction in life.

7. Know the joys and travails of raising a child. Of course, being single is not particularly conducive to realizing this goal!

Seven things I can do:

1. I can ride a motorcycle again. When I was a bit younger, I had a really nice motorcycle for 11 years. It was a 500 cc V-twin Honda that looked very much like a small Harley Davidson. I had a lot of fun on that bike and also used it as a primary means of transportation (as long as it wasn't raining!), I even rode it during the winter. Of course, I had to really bundle up to resist the chill factor! :)

2. I can play a classical tune on my guitar. I took lessons for five years when I was a kid. I wish now that I had taken more, but my teacher moved to another city and I didn't really look for another. Some of my favorite pieces were originally composed to be played on a lute more than 500 years ago!

3. I can visualize in full color and motion anything that I have carefully observed, or anything that I can imagine, all inside of my mind.

4. I can quickly invent solutions to physical problems with the tools and materials that I have close at hand (making good use of #3!). Lacking the proper tool or material, I usually know (or can find out) where I can procure either. Perhaps I have a genetic preponderance favoring some prehistoric Homo Habilis (aka "the handy man") ancestor. :)

5. I can take great pleasure in the simple company of good friends.

6. I can be trusted to tell the truth and keep all my promises.

7. I can make people laugh by making quick comments regarding things or people that I see or hear around me.

Seven things I can't do:

1. I can't understand high level abstract mathematics. In Junior High School, I aced geometry, but nearly failed algebra. Later, in college, I had some very good math professors and did much better. Still, visually oriented mathematics (graphing, integral calculus, etc.) was always much easier for me to relate to than a bunch of symbols on a page.

2. I can't sit behind a desk performing engineering calculations all day nearly every day for years while at the same time finding much enjoyment in life.

3. I can't read very fast.

4. I can't understand the blind devotion to a particular religious faith that would cause a person to label everyone with a different perspective on the nature of reality as evil.

5. I can't defy gravity, although I frequently dream that I am able to do so. :)

6. I can't drink a lot of alcoholic beverages without becoming sick to my stomach a few hours later. Because of this, I haven't gotten drunk for years. I have, on occasion, become a bit tipsy though. :)

7. I can't understand how the universe can be an infinity of empty space beyond the farthest star of the farthest galaxy.

Seven things I say most often:

1. Rats!

2. Dammit!

3. Crap!

4. That figures.

5. Ouch! (I get a lot of splinters in my hands and occasionally mash my fingers with a hammer!)

6. What the hell?!

7. Now, where did I put that damn tool?! :)

Answering these questions was fun. :) So, I will invite any of my visitors who are interested to answer them as well. Thanks for learning a bit more about me! Btw, some of you may recall that this month marks the one year anniversary of this little blog. Soon, my little baby blog will be out of diapers (quite a precocious little blog!) and on to the terrible twos! :)