Well, there was a lot of interest in the iPad discussion I started on Friday, with hundreds of people viewing the post, and several interesting comments either put after the post or sent to me in email. Note taking to the device via handwriting seemed to be a major thing that people are keen on, and I admit that it is also something that, as I said in the Friday post, made me see the device firmly as a primary work tool here on out. But some are unsure, perhaps unconvinced. So, I decided to reply to many of the comments by writing a letter, including a diagram of sorts. I did it on screen, while riding the bus home, using the excellent program Note Taker HD that I told you about in the post, mostly in “edit 2″ mode, allowing for compact and relatively neat writing with just my finger. Here it is (just click on an image of a page for a larger view, and be warned that a few full stops (periods) at the end of sentences did not show up so well in the images):
Monthly Archive for August, 2010
So I had a big payoff.
The War has dragged on for a long chunk of the Summer, with attacks on three fronts, air (Flitty), ground (Slinky), and, most annoyingly, tree (Fluffy). While I do counterattack, including pointless and potentially embarrassing bouts of fury that see me rush outside early in the morning, sometimes in various states of undress, waving a broom, towel, pan, cup of tea, machete, or whatever I can lay my hands on, most gain is made by thinking through useful purely defensive countermeasures (perhaps in another post I will share with you a rogue’s gallery of the results of other countermeasures – see e.g. here). These were first laid on in July, while the figs were still far from interesting to the enemy, and also while they Continue reading ‘The Rewards of Countermeasures’
One of the things I’ve been meaning to tell you about is my recent explorations of the capabilities of the iPad. I’m extremely impressed with it, and want to tell you a bit about how I use it in case it might work for you. There is a lot that is being said out there, and lots of yelling and whining about what it is not, and so a lot of people are a bit confused, it seems. I’ve a nice chunk of time here on the bus, heading home from my first day back on campus, just after the end of my first class of semester, where in fact I used the device a lot, and so this is a good time to begin to tell you a bit about it.
Bottom line? The small bag I carry that you can see in the picture to the left contains everything I need for a huge number of day to day work tasks, for the research, teaching, and administrative tasks that are part of the standard Professor gig, and a whole lot more. It is all I carry, even on a longer business/work trip.
The main complaint that a lot of people had was based on dashed expectations. Lots of us, and I include myself in this camp, wanted Apple to produce something like a tablet computer. A “real” computer. One that you can program and so forth like you might do your laptop or desktop, or at least run a lot of applications that are considered the business of serious computers these days, even if not writing machine code or C++ or FORTRAN…(You know, the stuff of Real Programmers.)
So typically, when the iPad is discussed, people give a list of queries about what they want it to do, and if it does not do those things, it is dismissed as a toy, essentially. End of discussion. You can find lots of shouty discussions about the iPad on the web, with lots of accusations about how Apple let people down, and the phrase “dealbreaker” being tossed around as though its some discussion about dating criteria. Ok, so the iPad might not work for you, but make sure it is really for the right reasons.
The bottom line, I realized after having my own list of disappointments, is that the more useful approach might be to figure out what sort of things it does well, and to not think of it as a failed laptop or tablet, but an opportunity to learn a new workflow Continue reading ‘My Office in My Handbag: The iPad as a Serious Work Tool’
I just noticed that last week’s episode of The Universe on Time Travel, which I told you about here and here, is available online on their website. Click here to learn more about the ins and outs of it, and I show you how to make one too! Kind of.
It is a difficult subject to explain, and one that must be tempting to Continue reading ‘Time Travel a Click Away’
One of the things I am very happy with from my recent explorations in Vienna was my proper discovery of Egon Schiele. Somehow he’d not been on my radar before, and while I enjoyed looking at lots of rock-star famous excellent work by Gustav Klimt, it was Schiele who, out of the two, really captivated me on this trip. (More on another artist later.) So as to not startle you while eating your morning wheaties, I’ll spare you one or two of my favourite drawings/paintings of his that spring most immediately to mind, and instead show you the one on the right, which is very striking (Kneeling female in orange-red dress, 1910). He seems to have had a thing for orange/red, I’ve noticed. Or maybe it is I who notice it a lot in his work. I mostly love that many of his paintings are very much like line drawings with colour added, and since his line drawing work is Continue reading ‘Schiele Surprise’
It all happened so fast, I did not even get to take a picture for you. Yesterday morning, I woke up with the thought that I should clear some space in the, er, batcave/lab/hideout in order to make room for a lot of stuff that is currently in my campus office that is taking up vital room. I’ve a tiny office, so from time to time I have a space crisis. (I need to bring myself to discard tons of the old preprints (pre-publication papers) from the 80s and 90s that I keep mostly out of sentimental value, and then I’d be on top of things more easily, I expect. Lots of them are tied up with old notes on various projects, and so I sort of want to make time to archive those notes, separate them out from the preprints, and then discard the latter.)
I found that I could generate a huge amount of space down there by getting rid of a ton of old electronic devices. (Let’s just say I dismantled one of my doomsday devices and had lots of spare parts left over.) I looked up the one recycling centre I knew about for sure (remember me filming there last year, illustrating supernovae? See here, and here, for example) and found that one could only deliver things there if one was a Burbank resident, which I am not. So I did a wider search and found that there are various electronics recycling collection events arranged periodically in the region, and one of them was happening that very morning over in Sierra Madre! Inspired, I spent the next half an hour loading up the car, and after a quick breakfast was on the road at about 9:00am, carving a nice slice of road up the 2 toward the spectacular view of the mountains one gets, especially that time of day (it is something about the morning sun, I think, along with the rush of zipping up the pleasant slope of the traffic-less 2).
I anticipated an interesting scene, with lots of stations of different sorts for various types of items (computers there, VCRs there, doomsday device components there, Continue reading ‘So Fast…!’
Some of you will recognize the blue box in the picture on the left that I took recently while travelling. I have two things to mention in connection with it, but first let me mention that it is indeed what you think it is, but not really. In other words, it is in London (Earl’s Court), and it is a classic Police box (well, a modern relaunch), but it is not (as far as I am aware) also a disguised remarkable time machine owned by a somewhat eccentric renegade Time Lord. Ok?
Ok, thing number one. I don’t get the BBC America channel, but they kindly were dumping on to On Demand the episodes of the new season of Dr. Who, with the new writer and the new actor, so one day I thought I’d have a look. Just to get myself annoyed, because (sorry fans of its recent years) over the years I usually get ridiculously annoyed at how utterly stupid the show is, with lots of pointless running, and overacting, and cheap, crappy, silly plots and sets and so forth, and get even more annoyed when I remember it is mostly deliberate – we are supposed to enjoy the hokeyness in the spirit of nostalgia for the time many decades ago when it was on a super low budget but was ahead of its time. And I get more annoyed when I think that people abroad are watching this and thinking it is a prime example of great British television. Then I turn it off and ignore it for a year or two, and then do it all again. So anyway, I did that this time, back in the Spring. And guess what?
Continue reading ‘I Gotta Get Me One O’ These!’
This rather hot day sees me in more of a reflective mood, which is a rather good thing. I’ve been chipping away at the Project a bit, solving some issues concerning its final form, and looking around me and soaking up the Summer. I did some of that at Intelligentsia cafe before lunch, listening as I worked for a while to four filmmakers at the next table loudly plan a shoot, until I decided to switch to listening to music when it turned out that it was a porn film and they were exchanging ideas about what underwear the teenage star of the scene would be wearing and in what sequence it would come off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude, and certainly am not averse to underwear being removed in the right sequence and in the right circumstances, but it was distracting. And obnoxious. It is the price one pays for having coffee there instead of at Casbah, where the non-shiny people like me sit, mostly, but it is just too hot in the latter for me these days.
This is a very different day from yesterday, which saw me up at 5:30am, and then e-mail bouncing drafts of a paper back and forth with my collaborator Tameem all day until about 10:30pm, when we decided we’d done enough and submitted it to the arXiv. I focused on little else that day and did not leave my lair at all, so today is sort of an antidote to that.
Going on in background is a bit of preparation for the start of classes on Monday, the beginning of the new academic year at USC. I’ve been looking at a draft of a syllabus for the big class I’ll be teaching on introductory physics (for Engineering and Science majors). My class will have 100 students and the parallel one, taught by a colleague following the same syllabus, will be of similar size. So decisions about homework, grading policies, midterm dates, and so forth all need to be finalized by tomorrow Continue reading ‘Entangled’
Nope, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth. Sorry about the long gap between posts, but I got buried in several things such as contributing to the writing of a grant renewal proposal, settling back into Los Angeles (checking that some of my favorite things that you hear about from time to time on his blog, like the downtown art walk, the cafe at Bottega Louie, various other cafes, the Edison, etc, were all present and accounted for), and…. The Project.
Yes, the Project that I mentioned from time to time and, probably annoyingly, declined each time to tell you what it is. Recall from a post I did back in February that I essentially devoted my sabbatical semester, and the Summer that followed, to developing the Project, researching it, investigating the idea, seeing Continue reading ‘Prototyping’
As I said a few years ago in anticipation of a similar nice Perseid meteor shower:
Concerned that you don’t know enough astronomy? No idea in any amount of detail where these constellations are? Don’t worry! Basically, all you really have to do is find a place where the sky is reasonably dark, look [North] East, and wait. As your eyes acclimatise to the dark, and with a bit of luck, you’ll see some, and zero in on where to look.
There’s more at the NASA news site, from which I borrowed the image above. The peak is around these few nights (12th August or so) and there’s no moon, so if you’ve got some dark (ish) skies and a bit of patience, you should see some. Yes, this includes viewers in cities. Don’t be pessimistic. You might be able to find patches of dark enough sky, especially if you can go near to an edge of the city, or a park, and look away from the bulk of the lights. It does not have to be perfect viewing Continue reading ‘Perseids Galore!’
One of last year’s crazy Big Projects was filmmaking, you may remember. I just noticed that a little over a year has gone by since I premiered the first of the short science films I wrote, directed, co-produced… etc. Doesn’t hurt to look at it again. If you have a good connection, go to YouTube and select the option to watch it in HD and blow it up to full screen, and crank up the volume for the fun music!
Here’s Shine a Light:
It was brought to you by the NSF and USC’s iOpenShell Center. Visit the latter to learn more!
Don’t forget to share it! (Lots of people have viewed it (over 16,800 to date) shared it, and used it in their teaching, etc. It has been translated into a number of other languages, etc.)
Now, back to working on this year’s Project….
Back in Los Angeles, things at home started on a rather pleasant note. I went out into the garden and picked four nice ripe figs off one of the trees, still warm from the sunlight. (Hmmmm… My nemesis, Fluffy, must be napping. Or planning something very subtle.) You can see three of them in my hand to the left. A fourth did not survive the wait period while I got my camera out of my luggage.
Sunday in Vienna was as interesting as Saturday, with more outdoor components than indoors since it was a lovely day, weather-wise. I wandered the city streets a lot, and spent a fair amount of time getting a feel for them, occasionally hopping on the subway (U-bahn) or a tram to nip over large distances, or to rest my feet. Other rest stops involved cafes for a beer, or a cup of tea, and a bit of people watching, reading, or other pleasant sitting activity.
Like Saturday, I saw a lot of art on Sunday, focusing again on Austrian artists primarily, and learning about the Secession movement in particular, and several of the characters associated with it. Fascinating.
I’ll do a post or two more on Vienna later on, I hope.
I left the city in the evening, heading for a brief stop in London before setting my sights on Los Angeles on Monday. Found myself in the amusing position of watching Continue reading ‘New Bounty, and Homeward Bound’
I gave my seminar at the workshop yesterday and said goodbye to friends old and new, colleagues, staff, and so on. Today is a hello to tourist mode, with me exploring aspects of Vienna. It is raining today, so it is a good thing that I’d planned to spend a lot of time looking at art indoors.
I’m resting in the cafe at MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst), between bouts of exploration of the exhibits. There’s a modern art and modern science (together, and of course modern means early 20th Century) exhibit on the upper floors. They have the usual chatter Continue reading ‘Outshine’
I just noticed, via this article at the Guardian, that not only has Edward Witten been awarded the Institute for Physics’ Isaac Newton medal, but his lecture at the ceremony has been posted online for all to see! See the link below. It is not often that you get an opportunity to see Witten, one of today’s giants in theoretical physics, on the public stage, to the extent that most people outside the field have not heard of him at all. The public view of who is driving forward and massively contributing to the field is rather skewed as a result of the number of appearances and grand pronouncements (often on subjects they’d be better shutting the hell up about!) from certain other renown theoretical physicists. So here’s an opportunity to hear from one of the true masters of the field.
When you speak to sensible people in the subject, whatever their own work is about and whether they like some of the things he works on or not (such as string theory), they will quite readily concur that he has done a huge amount for the field, driving forth many powerful ideas, sharpening the way we think about certain kinds of problems, conceiving of new ideas, and overall strongly influencing much of the basic manner in which practitioners think about the physics they are doing. Often, even if he is not the originator of a particular Continue reading ‘Witten at Your Fingertips’
Vienna. (Yes, the 80s song’s refrain did ring in my head as I arrived. No, I still have no clue what the lyrics mean.)
I am at the Erwin Schrodinger Institute (named after one of the co-discoverers of the modern Quantum theory upon which so much of our science and technology depends, in case you were wondering – he with the cat) for a while. There is a workshop here on the study of aspects of nuclear physics using holographic methods from string theory, a topic I’ve told you quite a bit about before. This is week one, and there are some longer survey talks that have been put on to set the scene and get everyone on the same page. It is an excellent way to start a workshop. As a bonus, present are some of my old friends from my postdoc days who I last saw in Madrid earlier this year, Karl Landsteiner (one of the organizers) and Esperanza Lopez, (you may recall me chatting a bit about those days in an earlier post), and, as icing on the cake, to my surprise Rob Myers, a friend and collaborator from even further back, is here too.
It is not just about old friends and colleagues, but new ones too. I’ve met and re-met Continue reading ‘Oh Vienna!’
Perhaps ironically, since I tune into BBC Radio 4 every day when in Los Angeles, I’ve not been listening to it or any other UK radio or news source while here in London at all. So imagine my pleasant surprise on Thursday when I came across what clearly looked like a docking station for bikes (as opposed to super-fancy bike racks, which I thought it was at first)! Sure enough, once I got closer I confirmed it – a bike sharing scheme was starting in London. By the next day I saw some more stations on my walks, and a truck driving along full of the bikes, presumably going to load up the stations. As it turned out, I learned later that the scheme started that very next day, and today I saw several people out riding on them!
I am a little disappointed about one thing. I wanted to try them out and be out there seeing the streets of the city from one of these bikes instead of on foot (as I have been doing a lot in the last several days), but guess what? Continue reading ‘Come On LA!’