Fractals

Did you know that it’s technically impossible to capture a perfectly defined measurement of the perimeter of our coastlines?

As you know, coastlines across the world range from smooth beaches to rugged and rocky terrain. Imagine stopping time and taking an aerial picture of the coast nearest to you, with, say, a resolution of 5×5 km. Got the picture in your head? Whatever coastline you chose, the perimeter of that coastline will have jagged features with scales that range from kilometers to tiny micro-meters. How do you measure this?

Let’s start with, for example, a certain section of the Oregon coastline that we want to measure with a yardstick. Once we’re done (after probably months of work) let’s compare that measurement to a measurement of the same perimeter with the diameter of a penny (~19mm, and probably a lifetime or more of measuring). The total length of the measurements would be drastically different. The smaller your scale, the larger the total perimeter of your coastline… literally to infinity.

Benoit Mandelbrot, a famous mathematician, after discovering this phenomenon, said, “[The world’s] coastline length turns out to be an elusive notion that slips between the fingers of those who want to grasp it.”1

Our world is so incredibly complex.

  1. https://archive.org/details/fractalgeometryo00beno/page/25/mode/2up

Find a time to laugh

I’ve recently gotten into the new Hulu show, “Only Murders in the Building”, featuring larger-than-life actors such as Steve Martin and Martin Short, whose eccentric personalities are kept in check by a quirky yet chic Selena Gomez.

My new roommates and I will occasionally pop on a half-hour episode, to find ourselves holding our stomachs laughing, like just poked Pillsbury Doughboys.

We need moments like that. Points in time to disengage from the worry that the ever-churning machine of our modern world will always need our attention. Let’s take some time out of our day today to relax and laugh!

Stay in the arena

Teddy Roosevelt may have been one of the greatest United States presidents to have set foot in the White House.

A leader of humble quality, he was known to remember the names of all his staff, occasionally offering a little gift or spark of insight to each one. He pioneered the conservation movement, played a key role in settling the great Coal Strike of 1902, wrote 35 books throughout his lifetime, and became partially blind in one eye due to a blow he received during a boxing match in the White House. Yes. In the White House.

One of the quotes he is quite famous for has a special place in my heart, and I would like to share it with you. It’s from a speech he gave in 1910 at the University of Paris, just one year after he left the Oval Office.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Teddy Roosevelt

Whatever difficult and narrow path you may be on now, and as much criticism as you may be receiving for doing the right thing, stick with it. Keep fighting despite the odds. And don’t allow critics to even partially blind you to the goal you’ve set. Stay in the arena.

Learning the meaning of patience

I moved to Corvallis, Oregon about a week and a half ago. The ocean along the Pacific Northwest coast waved and I had to wave back (I’m studying nearshore oceanography here).

A small, quaint town of just under 59,000, Corvallis boasts a wealth of local coffee shops, breweries, hiking and biking trails, and the winding Willamette River, one of less than 50 rivers in the United States to flow from south to north (to put it into perspective, the U.S. has over 250,000 rivers1&2).

This past week has brought with it plenty of new experiences, from cycling along the sun-dappled roads through OSU to reading in the shade of a berry patch near my new home (I live with three other gents in their 20s on the west side of town), and I’ve been able to enjoy the relaxed nature of the town in summer.

However (and there must be a however given the title of this post), I have found my office space rather empty before the fall semester starts. The roommates also seem quite busy with summer school and fieldwork, and acquaintances I’ve made at church were off on vacation this past weekend. On many occasions, I’ve had to adjust my expectation of instant community at “the snap of the fingers”, like Starbucks instant coffee. It may sound good, but won’t be nearly as savory as taking the time and persistence to develop meaningful relationships. I have to think of this as a stretching experience in learning to enjoy some quality solo time for a bit.

If you’re going through a similar experience in a new social context, whether that be trying a new church, going to a new intramural club, or joining a community engaging in like-minded interests, stick it out! And if you’re on the other side of the coin, and see new faces in a place you call home, reach out!

Making friends who know you well just takes time. Patience is, indubitably, a virtue.

Updates to come on the Oregon front.

1.https://www.worldatlas.com/rivers/rivers-that-flow-north.html#:~:text=In%20the%20US%2C%20at%20least,drain%20into%20the%20Mediterranean%20Sea.
2. https://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/usa-river-map.html

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone

I’m sitting in my quiet office on the second floor of Louisiana State University’s Coast and Environment building. The hum of the A/C saturates sound in the background and is only disturbed by the occasional patter of feet along the hallway outside my door.

A quick glance out the window is met with green leafy trees rustling in the wind. Two squirrels chase each other across the branches of a near tree.

The other day I read a book from a hammock strung along the banks of the mighty Mississippi, watching the turbid water lap at the roots of maple, ash, and oak trees.

A friend and I took our bikes down the levee to Baton Rouge’s city center and grabbed some delicious beignets.

A slackline session along the lakes bordering campus brought some great discussion with a close buddy.

To be honest, I’ll miss Baton Rouge.

Inside the old state capitol building

These past six months have been a struggle to stifle the desire to simply move on. I often try fruitlessly to see what lies around the coming corner, rather than absorb the things on my doorstep. Right here. Right now.

Much of my time in Louisiana has been spent missing Colorado. The mountains. The friends. The family. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize I do have family here in Baton Rouge now. I’m just sad it took this long to realize it.

Goofing off with some climbing friends

Take a second and soak in where you are in this moment. You’re better off than you think.

The field outside of the Coast and Environment building

The Cup that Gives Back

Where is your identity when an unexpected twist in the road brings calamity? How phased are you? Do you have enough to weather the storm?

So many empty golden cups surround you, vying for even just a portion of your very self. They seem to offer so much. A respite in the midst of crushing anxiety. Importance in the eyes of your friends and family. A quick laugh at the expense of another. You pour some of your portion into each cup, to find out that moments later it is empty again.

Fight that urge. Pour your portion into something that truly gives back. It is a small cup, not covered in jewels or diamonds, not forcing its way upon you. You pour your portion into this cup, to find yours more full than it was before. You’ll soon find you can take the next unknown bend in the road with confidence, because this unassuming portion is the cup of Christ.

I was the Hare

In the wee days following that famous ball drop in Times Square, a long-time buddy and I, inspired by the prospect of new beginnings, decided to hike up a snowfield in the mountains west of Denver.

The morning of the hike started slowly, and after a tall coffee from McDonald’s (yes, we gave in to the beast), we parked our car and started the ascent. Ice crunched beneath our feet as we trekked through a stunning snow-encrusted forest that gave way to a vast frozen lake. To the left, a large couloir (Fun term: A steep, narrow gully between two mountain faces) separated the forest from a prominent cliff that overhung the lake. We strapped on our shoes, took one step, and were immediately blasted with gale-force winds. I felt like the tortoise in the famous moral tale, and given the rate we were trudging up the snowfield, I knew plans for a summit were slipping from view. We soon found shelter at the base of a rocky outcrop, where we strapped on our heavy skis and began the descent. The wind was at our back now, and all we had to do was stand, put our arms out, and fly like a kite as gravity shot us down the mountain.

Minutes later, our ski tips reached the edge of the familiar lake as we wiped the tears from our faces and stared yet again at that majestic couloir.

“Let’s send it.”

So, we took off our skis, put on our snowshoes, and began another intense effort up the south slope. At this point in the day, the sun’s growing heat was magnified by the reflectance of the snow, and I was burning up. I couldn’t force enough air into my lungs and would take breaks of sucking precious O2 before climbing up the next section of snow. After what seemed like ages, we made it, yet again to a clump of trees and lay in the snow. I looked down. Several tourists (or shall I say fellow hikers) now fringed the lake and I could tell they were staring up at us. I suddenly switched roles in that famous tale and wanted to become the hare. I saw myself flying down the couloir to the oohs and aahs of the growing crowd at the lake. “Let’s take it up a notch”, I thought, and, partly due to the heat, took my shirt off for an even more epic run.

Skis. Check. Stoke. Check.

I pick up my poles and immediately went into hyperdrive. Before I knew it I looked down and saw that my skis had sunk beneath the top layer of snow and were now dragging close to the ground while my body was still picking up speed. Physics works in interesting ways. Before I could blink I faceplanted, rolled, lost a ski, and found myself freezing in a blanket of snow. All my pride leading up to that moment was gone. I’m pretty sure I heard an, “Ooouuuccchhhhhh” from the lake as the shocked faces of the audience winced. GoPros, cameras, and phones were lowered, and I’m pretty sure people were shaking their heads saying what I usually say, “Damn tourist is in above their heads.”

So next time you want to do something crazy, just remember, pride comes before the fall.

A Book and a Puzzle

I got COVID back in February. Two weeks holed up in an apartment for an extrovert can be tough, but hey, given the situation it was the least I could do to help stop the spread.

Day 1 was spent doing schoolwork, cleaning the house, and catching up on the typical things that had slipped through the cracks in previous weeks.

Day 2 shifted to workouts, calling friends, schoolwork, Netflix, and playing the floor is lava… I was getting antsy. At this rate, 12 more days was like gazing up at the summit of Everest from base camp.

On day 3, though, something happened that I didn’t expect. Out of the blue, a friend stopped by and dropped off a book and a puzzle, both of which she knew would ease my boredom. Not only had she taken time out of her day, but she was thoughtful enough to choose gifts she knew I liked. I was shocked!

If you have some free time, think about how you can make someone else’s day today. Thoughtfulness in our modern era goes such a long way. Below are some ideas for you to get started:

  1. Write a friend a birthday card.
  2. If you find something at the store you think a pal would like, spend the extra dollars and buy it for them as a surprise.
  3. If someone you know is going through a tough time, spend some extra time with them to show them you care.
The “Mineralogy” puzzle from Jenna

“There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness, and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.Mother Theresa