Nostalgia Furniture

New acquisitions. I’ve been a fan of the work of Marcel Breuer for many years now, going back to my first postdoc in the early 90s, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. There, I lived (over three years) in some lovely 1957 apartments designed by him, with furniture of his design in them too. (It’s a bit different now, I understand.) The Wassily (or, Model B3) chair is one of my favourites of his, and two days ago, when I got an email from a friend I’d not heard from in a while that she was getting rid of a leather-finished pair of them, I went to see them as soon as I could (especially when I heard of their colour, which I’d decided would match my floors rather well). I came back from the visit with (after some negotiations and handing over of payment) the pair and set them up.

Yes, they are just as wonderful as I recall (and this set is particularly well made – very good reproductions), beautiful, very comfortable, and a good fit for my living room… […] Click to continue reading this post

Almost at an End

I’ve had a fun time over the last few lectures with some more mature topics, pointing the students to things that they will see more (I hope) in the advanced class next semester. We covered the large N Gross-Neveu model in some detail, giving me the opportunity to give a glimpse of several important topics and techniques… at large N the 2 dimensional model’s solution is exact, and it shows important phenomena such as spontaneous chiral symmetry breaking, dynamical mass generation for the fermions and dimensional transmutation. These are all important phenomena shared by (the more difficult to study) quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear interactions. (See an earlier post about some of these properties and what they are… there’s also a mention of a new general level book that goes into some detail on the physics and the history.)

The other thing I took some time to explore was the diagrammatics of the model, and the interesting patterns that emerge […] Click to continue reading this post

More Mannequins

So, this weekend I am determined to get fully pencilled at least one page of this new story for the graphic novel (the one featuring science as the main character… follow the link for more).

(I had a fantasy that by the end of this weekend the page would be inked and painted as well, but I spent a bit of time on teaching myself a new set of techniques instead, which will feed into much of what is to come… so I am behind.) So I’ve designed the interiors, done all the layouts for this page, and am very happy with it. I have done the first pass at the accurate pencil-work, and there it is on the left. Those mannequins from before are back, now fully worked out in perspective for you. Takes a long time, as I’m rusty, but it’ll gather pace now, as I clothe them in flesh, then cloth (and some leather), and also the space they are in. Compare to the rough layout of this same page from a previous post.

The story? Well, not giving away anything in detail, but the two characters you saw conversing in an earlier story had met before. This is the story in which they meet for […] Click to continue reading this post

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those celebrating it today, Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll be doing only a little cooking today, making one or two dishes to take over to some friends’ for a meal where ten people are bringing items together for what I expect will be a great meal. So I’ll be working for a chunk of the morning and then breaking to make Southern-style collard greens, and maybe also a sweet potato pie… Are you cooking? If so, good luck, and have fun!

Some people sit at thanksgiving dinner and in turn call out something they’re thankful for (or at least do so internally)… Well, if looking for some new things to be […] Click to continue reading this post

Hanging Out at the Paramour

Now that we’ve finished the shoot, I’ll tell you that we were shooting at The Paramour, a wonderful old house in one of the Silver Lake hills of some renown. It is part of the Canfield-Moreno estate, famous for being a mansion built for a silent movie star and his bride. It has recording studio facilities used by lots of musicians of all sorts (you’re maybe heard recordings that were done there), and it is used a lot for filming. You can read more about it here.

The above sketch is one I did there yesterday while waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for the various scenes I was to appear in. I chose this part of the house because that’s where craft services was and it was one of the places people were allowed to congregate when not involved in shooting. There are more beautiful parts, but then… you see those in photos all the time anyway. It’s time this side got some attention. I did 90% of the pencil work on the spot, and finished it up and splashed some (digital) paint on it in the early hours of this morning (Inexplicably, I got up at 4:30am and have been up for four hours now… I think I am going to try to have a nap before going off shopping). I was also going to share with you some sketches of people playing a dice game (karaki? I did not know it before) that we used to pass some of the time, but I didn’t finish any of them, sadly…

The rest of the shoot? Yes, it went well. I brought an extra layer of clothing against the cold, but it was still very cold, especially since this time most of the filming was outside. The afternoon was ok, as there was a bit of sun, and, helpfully, a pig was roasting, so we could stand near the heat from that. Yes, you read me right… there was indeed a pig being roasted. It was for a scene involving a picnic, followed by revelry later (hired revelers were bussed in for the night-time craziness), with several of us standing round talking about random topics as the film crew wove in and out of our groups, catching snippets of conversation. Lunch later on involved eating the pig (not on camera). I had a monologue coming up later on in the day, and so I memorized it in the […] Click to continue reading this post

Tales from the Industry XXXVIII – Improvising

For the second half of today I was involved in film-making again, but this time not the usual science documentary material, but something else. What, exactly, I am not at liberty to tell you since I don’t really know, if the truth be told. It is going to be a rather beautiful-looking piece of work, with an interesting narrative arc, and… well that’s all I know. I was cast in it a while back following an interesting story in and of itself. I’d made friends with a really engagingly interesting bartender at a bar downtown that specializes in rum, a while back…(a year? more?) We had a great time chatting about ideas in science, the arts, and beyond, and did that “let’s stay in touch” thing that people do a lot, which may or may not really happen…

Some months later, the same fellow came to see me in my office to tell me about this film he was making, and that he’d like me to come and be in it. At the end of the conversation, somehow I still knew nothing about the film and what I was to be doing in it. I was just going to be in a splendid house somewhere, talking to people, and… […] Click to continue reading this post


I decided to wander downtown in search of the remnants of the Occupy LA march that started this morning at 4th and Figueroa. It was the two-month-iversary today and so there were special actions to mark the day. I got off the Dash F bus (took it up from the USC campus) and wandered up Fig, finding no clues. I wandered around for a bit more, but then I noticed the real clues were in the sky above. It’s something I’ve used before to figure out where the activity of interest is – look into the sky and watch the pattern of helicopters. There’ll be two types… The still ones up high are going to be TV, monitoring at a certain fixed distance… then there’ll be a lower one circling and moving around more. That’ll be the police, and at the center of that circle is what you are looking for. It was over the very center of the newer part of downtown, so I figured the movement was occupying right in the financial centre, and I was correct. Just North of Hope and 4th, or thereabouts, at the Alexander Calder sculpture (right where the opening pages of one of my stories for the graphic novel takes place, in fact (see here), so I know the area well from my location scouting)…

Anyway, both the protesters and the police were out in strength… a lot of police, in fact. Also lots of on-lookers, unsure of where and how close to stand. I stood back for a while as well, and then realized that there was no real issue with getting close and listening to what people were saying. So I did, and took some pictures for you: […] Click to continue reading this post


Strikingly beautiful, deliciously odd, and a little dark. Pythagasaurus is an animated short written and directed by Peter Peake and animated by Pascale Bories. Great voice work by Bill Bailey, Martin Trenaman and Simon Greenall. It’s about “the Mighty Pythagasaurus, the fabled tyrannosaurus practiced in the skills of trigonometry and long division”. […] Click to continue reading this post

Market People

A few people I quickly captured while relaxing in the sun at the farmer’s market this Sunday. (For larger views, click the images.)

It has become quite cool in recent days, and so it was nice to have a patch of warm sunlight to sit in for a while, as I watched people go by.

I was late for the market that day, and so I’d missed the people whose tamales I usually get, but found a tasty pupusa instead. […] Click to continue reading this post

Rough Pages

Well, it’s a time-consuming process (continuing the new work on The Project mentioned in a recent post), especially when you put in more detail than really needed on what is supposed to be a rough layout. Sigh… Anyway, I’m several pages along in layouts for a story I wrote a while back, and I’m flipping ahead from time to time and wondering how long this beast is going to end up being! In any case, it’s a fun topic (or topics) being explored in this one. I’m wondering if I should try to find a way of splitting it into two stories or perhaps […] Click to continue reading this post

Infinity Coincidence

So here’s an interesting sequence of events. On Tuesday in the QFT class I finished the lecture on Renormalization Group Flow, and the idea of a “beta function”, unpacking the results we’d accumulated from QED and quartic scalar field theory to use as illustration. The key result, for those of you about to scroll away (or the few of you who have not, but are hovering over the scroll bar), is as follows. Never mind what a beta function is right now. The issue at hand concerns whether it is positive or negative for a force of interaction being studied. A positive beta function tells you that the strength of the interaction between constituent things (particles, etc) gets weaker as you work at lower energies… This is an important result in understanding how Nature behaves in a variety of situations… one way of seeing variety is to look at different energy scales, and sometimes what seems familiar takes on different character. The converse is true… that positive beta function tells you that the interaction gets stronger at higher energies… Energy is also rather like the inverse of distance scale too, so high energy is akin to shorter distance scales (higher resolution), and low energy like longer distance scales (grainier resolution). In other words, looking at stuff in really tiny detail means using higher energy… and the nature of that stuff can change when you look at that sort of resolution since the way things interact changes… For electromagnetism, for example, we see that it gets stronger the closer we look, digging more deeply into the structure of the atom, say, probing the charged constituents of the nucleus once we’ve understood electrons. The result is that you see the electromagnetic interaction changes, ultimately turning into something else… (it merges with one of the nuclear forces, in fact…but that’s a story for another day)

So anyway one of the things I ended the class with was the idea that if you had a negative beta […] Click to continue reading this post

Mannequin Fun

Today is supposed to be a return to page layout on The Project. I’m rusty as all hell, not having done that for a while. I’ve been procrastinating a bit, and various errands have intervened, and more will – but I want to get down to it. This is the stage where I try to get all the beats of the conversation and other action all mapped out, before more detailed design of the settings, and before doing tighter (i.e., more detailed) pencils.

To knock the rust off, I decided early this morning to play with simplified mannequin figures. These little guys are great because they are very expressive, while being composed of only a few lines.

It worked…After a little while we were all loosened up and […] Click to continue reading this post

A Mighty Pen

Wow, Friday already! It has been a busy week, but with some good stuff here and there, I’d say. “Good Busy”, as I sometimes say. I’d like to dig into some work this early morning before the day gets into my head (although I’ve already been emailing with the East Coast) and so I’ll be brief.

One of the things I’ve been doing is experimenting with Pencasts, for PBS. What are those? Well, after I agreed to do one, the main instrument needed arrived in the post. An Echo smartpen, by Livescribe. It is a pen that records (when you write on the right paper) every penstroke you make digitally and you can play back that page elsewhere…It also has a microphone built in, and so what you can do is play back the writings/scribblings/drawings, along with the sounds that were playing at the time you were drawing. You can play them back right from the pen’s little speaker, or upload the whole thing to your computer or to the web and have the whole thing playback there. It is an excellent and powerful tool. The people who make this are heavily advertising it to students as a tool for studying, which I don’t have a problem with, but a lot of the sense of the marketing (and discussions I’ve seen on the web) seem to hint that it is somehow a magical substitute for actually learning how to take notes, since you are recording the lecturer’s voice… That I do have a problem with. Making good notes is an important skill and the act of paraphrasing and distilling what is being said is vital to learning… it is arguably the most important stage now, given that students seem to have less and less time to re-work and supplement the lecture’s material in their own non-class time… These pens should supplement that process, not substitute it… Like all tools, they need to be used properly for best results.

But anyway… Where was I? Yes, so the pen arrived, and I experimented with it a bit […] Click to continue reading this post

A Humble Pie

For some reason yesterday morning, I got the urge to taste a good old-fashioned meat pie. Perhaps it is the Winter feeling that has come over everything with the switch to chillier weather, rain, and the delightful seasonal hint of vegetative decay in the air… I was in a strong maker-mood and so this urge built into the desire to make the thing for real with my own hands. I had leeks and beef in mind, but it is not time for leeks yet in the Hollywood Farmer’s market, so I picked up some red potatoes, two types of mushrooms (shitakes and white buttons), two red peppers, some yellow onions and some garlic (forgot to get some green onions), and returned home (after stopping at Trader Joe’s for some good tenderloin beef).

I made some flaky pastry (half butter half shortening this time… figure it would be […] Click to continue reading this post


Some more Feynman diagrams from quantum electrodynamics (QED), with squiggly lines representing photons and straight lines representing electrons or positrons (their anti-particle), depending upon which way you read the arrows. The process represents an entirely quantum process, with no classical counterpart, of light scattering off light. You can read the diagrams any way you like, running time in your chosen direction, and you’ll get a sensible story. For example two photons approach […] Click to continue reading this post