Thursday Notes

Continuing the week, here’s Thursday:

  • 6:45am Look out the window toward the sun. Another lovely day seems to be starting, at least with regards the weather. Next hour and a half is spent on similar things to the last three days. Go back and look at the earlier posts (listed at bottom). Except cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese and cherry jam instead of oatmeal, in case you were wondering.
  • 8:15am Not quite ready (shower time warp –see earlier– and other things delayed me), but have 9:00am meeting and should have left by now. Should *just* be able to make it if I’m lucky with the bus, but send quick email to tell the person I’m meeting with I might be ten minutes late.
  • 8:32am I made the bus after all. Saw that other faculty member who rides to the bus stop as I passed her on my way and waved. She made a sort of “Nih!” noise of either recognition or surprise or both. I even took a gamble on the bus and jumped off bike, got newspaper from vending machine (thereby missing a cycle of the lights) and got back into the traffic. Always good to have a bit of derring-do in the morning.

    I really only get the LA Times on Thursdays, with any regularity. Mostly because I like the Weekend section, which has listings of events coming up, and some interesting feature article or two about some LA thing or person or other. They’ve been interesting to me more often than not, on balance. Not always hugely interesting, but enough for a good 25 minutes read on the bus. The Home section can be good too. So I get it just in case there’s something good. Indeed, it pays off, and there are some good things. I’ll point two of them out in some later blog posts, I hope.

  • 9:00am Meet with a bright and enthusiastic student who wants to do a multimedia project about the subject of her major -Physics. She’s interested in scientific ideas, how they are represented in the media and in journalism, how science and religion are different, etc. She’s interested in string theory and the current debates in the press, as an example. Gosh, what timing. She’s looking for a physics advisor to help suggest reading about this large topic, and make suggestions through the course of the project. I tell her that this will involve a lot of reading of a lot of material which I am happy to help her find, but I’ll only agree to do it if she approaches it with an open mind. She should think about that and get back to me with her decision. This should be interesting. I’m so happy to see a student asking questions about what is behind the material so I’ll probably end up helping whether I’m her advisor or not. I seem to recall that she was in one of my basic physics classes two years back, and so I’m pleased to see that she’s carried on asking questions. Makes the crazy schedule all worth it.
  • 9:30am Thinking that it is time to point the spotlight at the clouds and call the members of Team cvj (that’s a joke I should explain, by the way) together for a face to face about where everybody is in their research projects.
  • 9:40am Have short IM discussion with Tameem about projects, present and future. Confirms my thought that it is time to chat to the whole gang. Will send out the signal later today to meet tomorrow at one or other of our hideouts.
  • 9:55am Yikes! Almost time for class. Better get out notes and head over there. More on potential formalism, as I described before. Should be fun.
  • 12:00pm Well. Back in office after class. Got to eat lunch (sandwich made this morning), deal with emails, phone messages and some other sundry stuff. Want to start working on a whole new lecture for the 2:00pm string theory class. I’ve got nothing now, so had better get to it by 12:30pm.
  • 12:45pm Ok, here goes. Lecture preparation. Pulling together some ideas from before, continuing some scraps from the end of the last lecture. Preparing a sort of conundrum I want to lead the class to, to get their creative juices flowing….
  • 1:58pm Final scribble…. I’m a tad late. Still have to pick up the printouts and reproduce them for the class: A classic by Coleman and a gem by Witten.
  • 2:07pm Class. First 1/3 about further aspects of NS fivebranes. Lovely things. So sadly neglected now. Explore them very thoroughly, and have long digression about string theory and black holes (since by taking a careful extremal limit of a black fivebrane, you can find a 2D black hole living at the end of the “throat” at the core… ignore this technical mumbo-jumbo if you like). All a good excuse to talk about Witten’s 2D black hole and exact conformal field theory constructions of such physics. step back to explain analogies to more “modern” perspectives, such as AdS/CFT, which build on so much of this older stuff (I don’t know if anyone teaches the new generation this stuff any more), and move on to the next “big picture” topic. Duality. Coleman’s classic paper on 1+1 dimensional duality between Sine-Gordon and Thirring, Montonen-Olive 3+1 dimensional duality, etc. What can it teach us about strongly coupled strings? What generalizes? What’s a red herring? I let the class speculate for a while….
  • 4:00pm Back in office. More sundry stuff.
  • 4:15pm Off to University Village to Village Cobbler to see if that shoe insert is any good. Nope. Uncomfortable. Feel guilty about getting him to order it, and almost pay him the $15 and then come to my senses. Thank him and leave.
  • 4:40pm Meet science writer and colleague K C Cole on a corner (by arrangement) to walk up to the Two-Nine. 29th Street Cafe, that is. (The former term is what the young hipsters say, apparently. So being neither, I’ll stick to the latter, if you see what I mean.) It has been an awfully long time (creeping up to a year) since we’ve actually sat down and just talked. The last few times we met to sit, it has been to do with organizational stuff for the campus events, or the first few meetings of that class we started to teach together before the enrollment issues which meant that it was a waste of time for both of us to do it (so KC pulled out in the end). (See e.g., here, and here.)

    So we decided to meet to sit and talk about nothing in particular, and hence everything. I’m not happy with the cafe any more. It is convenient for campus, sure, but (primarily) it no longer has the two Belgian beers that it used to have, and (secondarily) the nice balcony seats at the front are way too loud with traffic noise. We talk, and catch up. That part is good.

  • 6:45pm Walk with KC to campus and then peel off to wander a bit in thought, and then catch bus home.
  • 8:15pm Home. Nice long email from a friend. Decide to print it out and read it over dinner. Decide I’m restless and go out to paint a little bit of the town red, taking letter and my notebook and a paper or two (essential
    red-painting equipment, you see).
  • 9:25pm Home. My plans were thwarted by the fact that I really just wanted to go and sit and have a nice bowl of noodles in a certain excellent Vietnamese restaurant in Silver Lake. Got there and there were too many people waiting (a 30 minute wait at least, they said) – they offered to seat me immediately outside (skipping me past the line with nobody noticing), but I declined. The outside seating is right next to a busy road, and to be honest, I was more in the mood to be in the thick of it inside, but knew my mood would be different if I waited for too long. Did not feel like doing anything else after all, and so (stopping for a moment at a pharmacy to buy some promising-looking instep supports (the saga continues)) I went back home. Walked around the block to try the new inserts, then went in to cook a meal based around some fantastic sausages I bought in Whole Foods while out yesterday. Decided to listen to my friend’s email instead, while cooking. It was great to do. I like to use a particular voice in the mac’s repertoire (which sort of gives my computer a particular character), and its great to have it read things to me, and thoughtfully written emails are perfect for this. (I recommend this by the way).
  • 10:30pm Reading after dinner, some emails to do with administrative matters at work, an amusing episode of Futurama…
  • 11:00pm Exhausted, so start to get ready to go early to bed for a change.


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4 Responses to Thursday Notes

  1. Pingback: End Notes - Asymptotia

  2. Amara says:

    Hi Clifford, Thanks for yet another look at your fun-filled(!) day. It’s educational for me to see how one combines the teaching and research aspects. My only experience with that was teaching at a university located 2 hours (by Rome’s public transportation) away from my research place. The commute was a significant drain on my time, and both places expected more of my time and attention than the hours that existed in a day. I can see how it would help to have both located at the same place. 🙂

    I looked further into my Mac System software regarding the speech capabilities. I see that Apple provides a few more “normal” gendered voices for the men than for the women.
    ‘Victoria’ and ‘Vicky’ are both supposedly female and 35 and with what I would consider minor differences in their voices. (Vicky is a little sweeter-sounding.) And they provide ‘Agnes’ too, another normal-sounding 35 yo female.

    And what does Apple provide for the women users of their software? Bruce, a normal 35 yo male, Ralph and ‘Bad News’, both 50 yo males, and Fred, Albert, ‘Deranged’, ‘Hysterical’ and ‘Whisper’, all 30 yo males with drastically different voices. No subtlety for the ladies!

  3. Clifford says:

    Hi Amara,

    Hey, I like the Vicky voice! Although I do agree that the range of voices could be broader, but eventually you get used to one…. and you have not fully explored a voice until you’ve had it read some fairly involved text with a variety of words. That can be quite amusing, and revealing. I’m surprised by how much character the speech system has, to be honest. Very surprised.


  4. Clifford says:

    Huh, I realized that I had not actually checked the range of voices in a while, and certainly not al the male ones, so i went and listened again. I don’t think that the male ones are that much wider a range than than the female ones….. On 10.4 there seem to be a couple more voices for each gender, but frankly, Vicky is the only one that sounds pleasant and close to human to me. The others would drive me nuts. Perhaps that’s saying more about my state of mind? I don’t know.