Posted by xbanguyen on August 10, 2014
Posted by xbanguyen on August 10, 2014
Early summer morning stops being a cliché when you catch a glimpse of that peculiarly blue sky standing by the kitchen window at five nursing a hangover from reading past two. It has been some years but that blue sky is still dependable, the anticipation of traveling, airborn, to somewhere can still be conjured up. If you need to simulate that blue sky, would silica gel work? After all, silica gel is 98% air, and holding it in your hand has been compared to holding a piece of sky. Now you must agree that there is an extreme beauty in that simile, and it has been said that in every extreme beauty there is an extraordinary disproportionality. Accepting that premise, you would not be surprised to find out that aerogels are known for their extremely low densities which range from 0.0011 to ~0.5 g cm-3. The production of silica gels involves the reaction of a silicon alkoxide with water in a solvent such as ethanol or acetone in the presence of basic, acidic, and/or fluoride-containing catalyst. In this technique, a silicon alkoxide serves as the source for the silica, water acts as a reactant to help join the alkoxide molecules together, and a catalyst helps the underlying chemical reactions go fast enough to be useful; silicon alkoxides are usually non-polar liquids, however, they are not miscible with water. To compensate, a solvent such as ethanol or acetone, which is miscible with both silicon alkoxides and water, is added in order to get everything into the same phase so the necessary chemical reactions can occur. That word “miscible” is entreating, but let’s just be content with noting it for now. What comes out takes on an ethereal beauty. See for yourself. The ephemeral nature of the summer sky notwithstanding, I am still bound by this surly bond of earth and sometimes must make do with the beauty of wood. It is no great hardship, however, as evident in this poem
The poem accentuates the sensation of permanence as it quietly sings the stoicity and enduring nature of wood. To be reminded that books being rustling wood moves me – the murmur of the pages has always been a favorite sound. The usefulness of books because they are pliable when held in my hands becomes evident after reading under the sun and I need to shade my eyes for a quick nap; the e-reader just does not provide the same tactile experience. It is so easy to let go with the scent of paper so close, the sand beneath, the instant darkness allowing stardust to shimmer under my eyelids at midday as I fell asleep mulling over NASA’s congruous use of aerogels to catch particles from passing comets.
Thank you, dear muse for the paradox of being present in your absence.
1) The aerogel photo and chemical composition are from http://www.aerogel.org/?p=3
2) The “surly bond of earth” is from the poem High Flight” byJohn Gillespie McGee Jr.
Posted by xbanguyen on January 27, 2014
“Nothing is the word that renovates the world.” The sentence fairly leaped off the page, seizing my shoulder, sitting me down to start this post. Reading a couple of lines further that “No is the wildest word we consign to language” flashed an insight so briefly, leaving in its wake an afterglow barely visible but definitely not a mirage. That’s reading Emily Dickinson in Seatttle this winter evening. Much has been said about her poetry, her life and that sense of mystery, but you will see that it got closer to home. As an awkward high school sophomore lurking about the halls of Lincoln High, before empowering became a cliche in the corporate world, I was empowered by her permission to select a society of one, dignified by a virtual stone door. Many years later, I sometimes wonder about her reasons for choosing to live isolated from the outside world. Inspite of her isolation, she transformed the world of many readers, this one especially, across space and time — the effect of her poetry is not unlike that of an isolation transformer. Lest you think that this notion is far-fetched, consider that the ioslation transformer transfers power in the form of AC current from the source via the primary winding to the load at the secondary winding, the primary and secondary not connected by conduction but by induction. In safety application, this isolation protects the users of the device connected to the secondary winding while transfering power to the device. Likewise, her poetry provides power to assuage my needs for beauty while protecing me from her piercing gaze into human frailties, most– if not all — of which I am a bearer.
The effort to understand her influence even after all these years reduces me to a mass of uncertainty. Is it her wry humor seeing that bird coming down the walk, the reckless abandonment in the wild night that invokes such shudderingly delicious delight, the condescension proferring to death, or that formal feeling comes after great pain? Is there an alchemy that eludes me? Or all it takes is to pay close attention to the words, as Fasrnoosh Fathi wisely pointed out?
It was not a book, but a bundle of letters and rumination in my imagination, with bunches of lavender strewn about. I remember the warmth of the satisfaction reading about the letters edged with gold stripes found by Jen and Margueritte as they cleared up the attic of their great aunt to prepare for Margueritte’s wedding chamber in “As the Earth Turned”, me whose feet barely found balance landing in Portland after the fall of Saigon. This is not meant to be autobiographical so I will stop while I still can, echoes from my mother’s reading of Alphonse Daudet still resonate and for that I am thankful.
Thank you for the many pleasures, dear muse.
1) The protrait of Emily Dickinson is from http://www.opb.org/artsandlife/article/npr-emily-dickinsons-envelope-writings-gorgeous-poetry-in-3-d/
2) The fragments of her poems are from http://www.opb.org/artsandlife/article/npr-emily-dickinsons-envelope-writings-gorgeous-poetry-in-3-d/
3) The transformer diagram is from http://cnx.org/content/m42416/latest/
4) The fireside reader painting is from http://fineartamerica.com/art/paintings/reader/all
Posted by xbanguyen on April 28, 2013
What part of speech is your most favorite word? Is it something you reveal to amost anybody who cares to ask, or only to a selected few, or would you reveal nothing even to the most intimate, hugging the word all the while? Let’s say that your favorite word is an adverb that brings to mind the sea, as in
What does that reveal about you?
The coming of May brings to mind the fragility of the himalayan poppy. The blue of this flower holds hints of promise from the summer sky to come. The almost translucent petals have a daintiness that belies the rocky terrain of their native land. They look ethereal, perhaps because their color is not an intrinsic property of theirs.
Rather they give off light that enters the eye, striking photo receptors, the rods and the cones, on the retina. As you know, light is a form of electromagnetic energy, comprising of photons characterized by wave-particle duality. The photo receptors in the retina convert photons into eletro-chemical signals that are then processed by ganglion cells, a type of neurons, then sent to the brain  to be perceived as blue, azure, cerulean, but perhaps not indigo, sapphire nor cobalt. What about the colors we see in dreams? What about remembered colors? How can my memory still recall with minute details the green of the leaves one summer I spent in Minneapolis and the coral of my dress bathed in light one morning as I found that my ASIC worked first time? Perhaps memory delineated with colors lasts longer, but whether it can be done intentionally I do not know. I do know that I am drawn to this poem, almost helplessly, inspite of the bright blue outside my window this morning.
The emphatic negations pulsing with resigned affirmation pull me inward with a longing to arrive at the source of this turbulence. The different shades of blue appear to blend into a blackness, paradoxically because black is the absence of light. The despair imparted by the poem lies heavily but not unpleasantly on my mind. Then logic prevails. There must be some light to perceive colors. The short-lived plants of years past notwithstanding, I will again try to coax the meconopsis betonicifolia to grow far from home.
Happy birthday, dear muse.
 The poppy photo is from scientifichealthfacts.com
 The retina diagram is from http://learn.colorotate.org/how-do-we-perceive-color.html
 The electromagnetic spectrum is from scheeline.scs.illinois.edu
Posted by xbanguyen on September 30, 2012
Posted by xbanguyen on September 28, 2012
Do you find it restful to enter a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, or do you prefer the thrill of a headlong dive into the turmoil of the author’s verbal consciousness? Always predictable, a typical ASIC/FPGA specification our group develops leans toward the former, the scope telling you what to expect, the theory of operation unfolding in the implementation description culminating in the total power consumption after a proper traversal of the various time domains. From the architectural description to the testability section, a well-written device specification can impart a sense of coherency for you in a pinch, if in spite of the best intention, you feel detached eating lunch while peering at the monitor to figure out the latest memory technology, DDR4, even when there actually are no needs whatsoever to be more rooted. In that situation, would the following lines make you smile, shaking off the self-imposed solitude to jump sideways onto a swiftly moving URL?
3. The diamond patterned mobius photo is from http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/mobius-book.html
Posted by xbanguyen on July 8, 2012
The scent of lilies at night made me feel like a voyeur as I walked along someone’s garden on the way back to the car after the fireworks ended. I spied the thick petals rising over the ferns to bathe in the night air, the greenness of the ferns a perfect foil. This being July, the unfurling was mostly done, but the knowledge that the unfurling patterns followed the Fibonacci sequence made the world of numbers come alive in spite of a lack of moonlight. As you know. each number in Fibonacci sequences equals to the sum of the two preceding numbers. Mathematically, Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2. The Fibonacci sequence of order 2 (n =2) includes 0, 1, 3,5,8,13,21 … This series abounds in nature: the calla lily has one petal, euphorbia two, buttercup five, delphinium eight, black-eye susan thirteen, aster twenty one. Is it the number of petals in the flowers that make them pleasing to the eye, or is there something else? Perhaps, because the sun flowers actually have their seeds packed that way to maximize the number of seeds in that space with the angle between the appearance of each seed exactly the one that is least approximated by a fraction, the golden angle calculated from the golden means which is the ratio of two successive numbers in a Fibonacci sequence  . It is the golden ratio Phi that creates the enduring beauty of the Parthenon, and underpins the face of the beloved. How does a specific mathematical proportion cause a universal perception of beauty in the mind? Will this poem shed some light on the bridge that links mathematics and beauty in the mind?
The tension in alternating the mind as both subject and object, enchanting and enchanted leaves me optimistic, especially the last line because by changing, the mind can create changes. By applying the golden ratio observed in nature to man made structures, we create beauty. That there are mathematical sequences behind beauty is encouraging because they add to the understanding of how we come to be and how we endure without depending on the existence of God, even though the comfort of believing in a greater being beckons as I mourn my mother. This series of posts has never been intended to be a journal, but I must mark her passing this past April. It took me several months to write again. This post is for you, mama, you who taught me how to solve for x by working out simple ratios, you who bought me many books of poems, explained to me the two-seven-six-eight meter in ca-dao, made potpourri for me from the roses in your garden, and most of all you who loved me unconditionally. I do not know if there is an afterlife, but I am grateful that your love of languages and things of beauty live on in me.
Thank you for the inspiration, dear muse.
2. The composite graphics of the sun flower is from http://www.mi.sanu.ac.rs/vismath/lends/ch2.htm and http://www.popmath.org.uk/rpamaths/rpampages/sunflower.html
3. The fern photo is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/22887580@N06/2198052702/?reg=
4. The Fibonacci diagram is from http://www.learncpp.com/cpp-tutorial/710-recursion/
5. The Parthenon photo is from http://alexorbit.com/fibonacci/golden-ratio.htm
Posted by xbanguyen on February 20, 2012
Posted in A.E. Stallings, Andre Breton, Anne Stevenson, Heliosphere, Jane Cooper, Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, Moon, Tides, Uncategorized | Tagged: A.E. Stallings, Andre Breton, Biosphere, Tides | 3 Comments »
Posted by xbanguyen on December 10, 2011
Is it possible to reinvent yourself from the same past? Is there a certain sheath of light you can put on to fashion the rearranging of the molecules within to emerge anew, sporting a re-engineered memory filled with assured joy? Would you rather be a sojourner, a guest in many cities or to put down roots in a familiar place? Can you be both? Looking at the other face of the same coin, can desire alone forge the necessary transformation? Most likely not — you may have to make do with knowing that a certain kind of transformation is possible, mathematical transformation, that is. So tonight I will attempt to assuage the ghost of Jay Gatsby by considering the Laplace transform that provides a means to traverse between time domain and frequency domain.
The opposing force twisting down the upward course of a wayward vine reminds me of Dylan Thomas’s poem of the green fuse that drives the flower. The extreme adjectives describing the hope coursing within the vine carry an optimism that belies the bleak soundings. That vine some day will transform again back into a root from which a new plant will emerge , the resilient seeds sown in soil once wanted will form another Eden. All you have to do is to sow a seed or two, and to be indulgent of yourself. Would you give up being in control for the pleasure of being enthralled by a resolute Eden?
Posted by xbanguyen on September 24, 2011
Would you rather know that there is less than one ounce of astatine in the earth crust at anytime, and that the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second, or would you rather know that the chemist Archie Randolph Ammon wrote poetry, as did James Clerk Maxwell the physicist? In this late summer evening I would rather watch the gradual departure of daylight softens
the demarcation between the mountains and sky beyond. Of course the lingering light does not go from the Olympic Peninsula to my retina instantaneously. Many years ago, Galileo attempted to measure the speed of light using two lanterns on a windy night atop those Florentine hills – I imagine the windy bit as you already guessed. Even though the experiment failed to yield a measurement, some years later it spurred the Danish astronomer Ole Roemer to note the time it took for the moon Io to revolve around Jupiter to come up with a measurement for the speed of light that was not too far off. Preoccupied with nostalgia, tonight I have succumbed again to the longing for permanence and felt comforted in knowing that there is such a cosmic limit as the speed of light that is constant for all frames of reference. That equation E= mc2/sqrt(1-v2/c2) describing the energy of a particle with rest mass m moving with speed v can be used to show that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light because infinite energy would be needed to accelerate v to approach c. This limit makes it impossible for us to travel back into the past nor to see into the future. Would you want to see the future, or just be content observing the light of September and be reconciled to the changing of seasons?
Paradoxically, the broken shadows illuminate for me the beauty of having four seasons, made possible only because of time. The lyrical uncertainty that light is neither before or after reminds me of the dual nature of light as particles and waves. Akin to D.H. Lawrence’s torch of blue gentians, the cheerful yellow mullein can also be torch-like. Phonetically, the mullein brought to mind the mullioned windows of a certain cathedral in Emily Dickinson’s mind when she felt the weight of that slanted light. The weight she felt is not only metaphorical but also physical because its particulate nature enables scientists to hold light captive in chambers containing a specific mixture of gas. The captured light can be released by flashing a second light through the gas. I wonder if the newly freed light, when departing from the holding chamber, left something like regrets in its wake.
Thank you for the book filled with light, dear muse
 The Gaileo’s lantern picture is from http://www.worsleyschool.net.
 Jupiter and its moons picture is from http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/a&s/light.htm
 A swatch of the universe photo is from realitypod.com