It has been another rather busy week this week (including a marathon seven-hour video interview!) and so posting was a bit light. I apologize for this, including for not getting to blogging about an event (or cluster of events) that I’ve been gleefully waiting for since the news broke last Fall that (as I’d mentioned back then) the LA Times Festival of Books is now being hosted by USC. This is something I fantasized about many years ago, in fact – I simply think it is a better fit for the city of Los Angeles for many reasons.
Anyway, the first festival of the new era is tomorrow and Sunday, with a wonderful program that can be looked at on the LA Times website. It will continue to be the largest literary festival in the USA (and perhaps beyond?), and it is hoped that it will get even larger… Next year, we’ll have the new branch of the subway system running, giving three stops at the campus (hurrah!), but in the meantime there’s a dedicated shuttle bus connecting USC to Union Station downtown and the Convention Center (not to mention all the many regular public transport links), and so you don’t have to bring your car to the area to deal with parking issues.
As you know from my blogging about all this in previous years (see list of links at the end), in a sense the whole thing kicks off the Friday night before (tonight!) with the Continue reading ‘Festive Weekend!’
Some of this weekend was spent in the mountains a few hours East of the city, where we had a departmental retreat for a short while. It was fun – lots of fun. There’s a lot to be said for going off to some other place with your work colleagues, being together with them for meals, business, and recreation, and getting to know people you had not met before, or getting to know better people you’d already known.
There were several short talks from people sharing a bit about what they or their research group have been up to, with coffee breaks and meal breaks. The latter were signaled by a nice gong, and we were served tasty vegetarian food that everyone seemed to enjoy (even those who eyed longingly the In ‘N Out Burger in the town at the bottom of the mountain before making the trip up – you know who you are!) with wide ranging conversation among ourselves and occasionally with the Buddhist monks and volunteers who run the centre. (Hence the sitting cross-legged on mats in the above picture…)
The evening had a few more talks and then was free for socializing. A large game of trivial pursuits broke out and hilarity ensued in one corner, along with chatting, guitar strumming and drawing (me) in other corners.
After what was a cold and windy night outside (I was glad of the extra layers I brought), Sunday had an early start for breakfast, 7:30am, and then a large group headed off for a hike. I decided that I needed to get some work done on The Project and stayed by the toasty fire in the dining room and did some drawing and inking, listening to Continue reading ‘Retreat’
It is earth day today!
Celebrate it, meditate upon it, be mindful of it, check out the website…
…or some subset of those things.
I’ve got some new plants in the ground, and I’ve leak- and block-checked the drip system.
Hoping for some tasty results later in the year.
Before getting up in the wee hours to prepare to jump onto a plane on Friday morning, I was out seeing some live music at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. I find that I need to go and get some of that from time to time, and the Hotel Cafe is a favourite of mine for that…
I had my notebook and a nice vantage point for grabbing a quick sketch or two of people at the piano. It was a nice challenge to do a couple of fast sketches – in almost darkness – to see if my hand and eyes were still “in”.
As usual (I’ve discussed this earlier here) my goal on fast sketches is not photo-realism (!) but a Continue reading ‘Maneuvers in the Dark’
There was a rather great piece of news last week that I did not get around to mentioning at the time of the announcement. Not only will we shortly have the Expo line, a new branch of the subway (or light rail) system down at USC and the city’s California Science Center, Natural History Museum, African American Museum, and so forth, all along Exposition, we’ll have…. A Space Shuttle! NASA announced where all its retired space shuttles will go to pasture, and the California Science Center will be one of the museums around the country chosen for this. It’ll be the Endeavour that comes to town. (I like the fact that the spelling with the “u” in it is the official one. Not noticed that before. Excellent.) (Photo: NASA/Kim Shiflett.)
I’m lounging around. In Cincinnatti Ohio. Why? Well, it has been a long day, and I’m tired. I spent the whole day yesterday traveling to get here, changing planed in Chicago, eventually getting to my hotel at 10:00 pm, having arisen at 6:00am. I spent the flying time thinking about physics and writing the talk I was invited to give here as part of the regional SPOCK meeting at the University of Cincinnatti. The letters stand for something, but I can’t recall what it is right now. It does not mean, as the title might suggest, that several emotionally-challenged and otherwise tv-cliche-handicapped individuals were meeting to discuss arcane matters in a room somewhere. It was a meeting of several people from the region’s string theory community to discuss…. Ok, ok, Ok…stop giggling!
I got up at 7:00am -really 4:00am my time- transferred all my pages of notes to the iPad, and got ready, leaving to do the short (I assumed) walk to the physics department in the wind and rain. I enjoyed that bit… I had however mis-estimated how long it would take me to get to the Physics department building, largely due to Continue reading ‘Lounging’
Yesterday I received an email that quite caught me off guard. It was from the USC President Max Nikias to all faculty and staff informing us that Sidney Harman had died. Perhaps oddly, my first thought was that I must have misread it, that perhaps Max was referring to someone else and I’d mis-wired the pathways in my brain to as to who it really was, or something… since Sidney surely was going to live forever, right? Or at least until 150 or so… He died at 92, and I was actually writing a post about the time I spent with him a while back brainstorming some ideas, on the delight of spending a little time with him and his wife Jane Harman, and his infectious wit and humour.
The post was about the outcome of the brainstorming, the new Academy for Polymathic Study here at USC. I gave a talk there a short while ago and was impressed with how it is coming along. My thought was that the spirit of Sidney, the driving force behind it, is there for sure, and I was looking forward to seeing him again so that I could tell him that, thank him, and congratulate him.
Missed my chance. He’s gone off to see to other matters, I expect.
Have a look at the memorial piece by Jonathan Alter about Sidney.
Here’s a video introducing the Academy, which includes Sidney taking part in explaining what it’s about (I borrowed the stills above from it):
Continue reading ‘Missing Sidney’
CicLAvia this weekend was wonderful! Again, just like the inaugural one last year (see my post with lots of pictures) it felt like it was as perfect an event as can be expected. There were droves of people out again enjoying themselves and connecting, plenty of great food, great weather, and lashings of good will.
I focused on hanging out with some friends, and so took fewer pictures this time, but there are a few. To the left is one of my favourites. It has City Hall nicely fragmented in a reflection in the new LAPD headquarters, with cyclists passing by on the route running along 1st street downtown.
Continue reading ‘Glimpses of CicLAVia’
For those of you located in the area, I should mention two events close to my heart that are taking place this weekend. One is the Dead Poets’ Slam, this Saturday at 7:00pm at the excellent Skylight books. This is one of the always great Smart Gals events, organized by Christine Louise Berry. She’s got together an excellent collection of readers to throw down against each other under this year’s theme, “Monarchs vs. Minions”.
You should know that these annual slams are slammin’. They are not simply people sitting around reading poetry, but animated passionate people really breathing living flame into the poetry and throwing it at each other for points and glory! There’ll be judges* giving out these points, famous victories, and fragments of the defeated left Continue reading ‘Weekend Poetry and Cycling’
Yes, of course they practice. But I’d never noticed that one of the practice points was right there in the middle of it all. I’d just got off the Blue line train, using a different route on my way to USC for a change, and about to jump onto my bike.
In other public transport news, I remain disappointed in the USC “Air Quality Continue reading ‘Pole Dancing’
I was in Joshua Tree for a couple of days on the weekend, camping and hanging with some friends. It was a very pleasant time indeed, with groups of us taking turns making meals, and with bouts of talking and walking here and there, and sleeping in our tents listening to the evening wind howling at times.
Here’s a closeup (click for larger view) of a flower bundle of the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), which is just a stunning plant.
The whole bush is pictured below.
Continue reading ‘Ocotillo’
Breaking news! On Monday evening, while heading for the bus stop I saw a lovely and welcome glimpse of the future. A train on the new Expo line tracks!!!! They are just testing, but it was exciting nonetheless. It is going to be so exciting and transformative when this line is done, and phase one opens later this year! (November, perhaps?) I’ll be able to use the subway/metro system to get all the way from my neighbourhood (on the red line) to the stop 5 minutes from my building, after one change downtown. I’ll feel a bit of a deserter if I stop using the bus to do the journey (assuming that the schedule is such that it it quicker than the bus!), but I’ve got to support this line too! After all, by 2015 or so, after phase two opens, I’ll be able to take this train from my office all the way to the beach…!
Continue reading ‘Good News, Everyone!’
Ok, so how long did it take you to spot that NPR’s 3D story today (“Advances In 3-D May Mean No Ridiculous Glasses”) was an April Fool joke? I thought it was rather excellent, and was in unbelieving mode from the moment that they began to talk about the surgery, which is utterly ridiculous, and made no physics sense to me at all. But the funniest give away was the line:
Continue reading ’3D Giggles’
Since I did not manage to put together an April Fool joke this year (again!), I’ll leave you with a joke sent to me today* that I’d heard some time ago, but still makes me laugh out loud since it is so close to the truth about how keen we Physicists tend to be when it comes to problem-solving, and sharing the solution, even when it is not such a good idea. I do not know the originator of the joke, but here it is:
Continue reading ‘A Physics Joke for April Fool’s Day’