Search Results for: brompton

Bent Cog

bent_cog_bromptonHere’s what almost ruined my morning on Monday. I decided to cycle the Brompton all the way into work, and went a different way as a change of scenery. At some point, my bike chain started making quite the racket, with a jarring action as I pedalled, but there was nothing visible wrong with the chain, and the gears seemed to be working just fine in terms of shifting – but the problem persists in all gears: The chain keeps trying to jump off the rear wheel every few inches, and then pops back on again. I could not see the problem at all, and I had to get into work for a meeting. My working theory was that I’d stretched the chain somehow so that it no longer fits the bike, but none of the tools I had were going to be able to help with that.

Happily, that different way I’d chosen meant that I could struggle on for a bit longer (enough to get me out of traffic, and do a bit of coasting when I could) and then walk the Brompton over from the end of Virgil to the subway stop at Wilshire and Vermont and complete my journey using the Red and Expo lines.

When I got it home, I put the bike on the high stand, and did a bit of investigation with the better visibility, and there it was. Bizarrely, the larger of [...] Click to continue reading this post

Commencement Capers…

bromptons_and_robesIt is Commencement day today at USC! In celebration of that I thought I’d post a picture of my colleague Krzysztof Pilch and I, being a bit silly. We each have one of those excellently practical Brompton bikes (splendidly finished in British racing green, of course) you sometimes have read about here, and Krzysztof suggested that we take a picture or two of us in academic robes riding our bikes. Krzysztof had his academic full gear ready because [...] Click to continue reading this post

Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Kind Of)

brompton_small_bag(Riffing on two earlier posts.) So I’ve been doing a bit of metalwork. I decided to make some adjustments to the frame of one of my several bags that fit onto the Brompton’s front bag attachement, to use it as support for a small bag. The metalwork involved me simply sawing off the side extended aluminium bars and leaving only the central part of the support frame. You can just see it in the enlarged version (click). There are times when I do not want to have a large bag on the bike, or even medium sized. Usually, then I have the small bag on my shoulder across the chest, and that works well, but nothing beats riding with nothing on your back or shoulder. So this is my solution, and one of my leather handbags fits quite well (with the aid of a strap I made from parts bought in a hardware store, and two tiny bungees with hooks, that you can’t see) on to the neatly detachable frame. Happens to match the seat/saddle nicely, all complementing the British racing green colour.

A very elegant solution, also allowing me to keep the bag on the bike all the time, still easily doing the quick fold, and to stably tow it when fully folded too (using the [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia Time Lapse

Here’s a timelapse video of the CicLAVia ride from Sunday 21st April. (I’ve done one for each of the past rides as well, so search on “ciclavia” for them if you wish.) My thoughts about the ride were posted back on the day, and there’s lots of discussion at that post on some of the issues I raised, so go and have a look if you like, and feel free to join in. I did the ride on the Brompton, as usual, and this time I was accompanied by my colleague Krzysztof Pilch, who was riding one as well. We even saw a few others on the way, which was nice.

ciclavia_April_2013_mapThe video is a bit flawed, not the least because at some point the top of my bag started puffing up a bit and blocking part of the view. Also, I’ve not laid on some funky music like the fancy folk do, so it is quite silent. But there it is as a record of most of the 13-15 mile route from Downtown to Venice beach: [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAvia and Festival of Books

Well, I’m exhausted, and so am certainly not going to give you a full report on everything right now. I hope to do another post with my usual time-lapse video of the ride some time later (but soon). They are uploading from my camera right now. All I will give you right now is a shot of the crowds at a typical stop along the route. Also, I will say a few words that will probably get me into trouble.


The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA. And it is not just for all the environmental reasons, to do with energy use, air quality, and so forth. I can go on about those but I won’t. See earlier posts for that sort of thing. It is also because many people get to properly see their city in these events, which is really important. You can’t see it from a car – and I don’t just mean all the buildings and wonderful hidden gems I sometimes talk about, but I mean the other people who live in the city with you. That’s a big deal, and an important one for when it comes to how we all work and live together. I’m also very excited that the organizers tried this cross-city route, linking East and West, getting West side based people involved in the fun. And overall I enjoyed today a lot… I love the event and will keep coming and keep supporting it.


But. Yeah, I’m going to say something negative, but only in the spirit of support for [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia October 2012

Well, it was a lot of fun, once again. There was a huge turn out, and pretty much perfect weather for it (not the extreme heat of a week or two ago, for example). I was not part of a group this time, and so I was able to explore with a fair amount of random abandon this time, starting at MacArthur Park metro stop, heading downtown and then all the way to Exposition Park, where I stopped at USC to print something out at my office (a long report I need to read), then head back up to downtown, through the City Hall (and new Grand Park) area into Chinatown. That got me thinking about baked buns, and so having returned back past City Hall, stopping briefly at Grand Park to look at one of the many places where there were concerts, I made my way to Little Tokyo to this place I like to find red bean buns and had one during a short stop in a square.

It was nice to sit and listen to all the conversations, and look at all the people (in family groups, friend groups, solo, etc) enjoying the city. Just as I was leaving to head to the East LA leg a fellow came over with his two sons (on a bike with a tralier for one of them, if I recall) and asked if I was a scientist. I wondered for a moment what [...] Click to continue reading this post

Now Arriving…!

The new line rocks! I went down there with my Brompton on the earlier side of things, this morning. I took the Red Line and changed seamlessly to the Expo Line at Metro/7th, and it was an excellent ride. I really do think (as I said in the previous post) that this is part of a major transformation for the city. This is a transformation with regards things like energy usage, congestion, community, air quality and all those wonderful things public transport helps with.

Of course, at the outset there is something truly right, to my mind, about being able to easily connect from downtown to Exposition Park and the Science and Natural History Museums, the African American Museum, and of course USC – All major Los Angeles institutions clustered together and now connected back to the newly beating heart of it all. From USC, I can now easily connect to the music center, LA Live, MOCA, any number of my favourite restaurants, bars, cafes, and other places I love downtown, and then float on home on the Red Line, or off to Pasadena or Boyle Heights on the Gold Line. This is so exciting to see come to pass. I’ve been dreaming of trains running along Exposition Boulevard between USC and the Museums and the Rose Garden for many years now, and it is now a reality. Stepping off the train today at the Expo Park/USC stop was just magical.

I recorded some footage of my travels on it today for you and edited it all together into a ten minute film. You can see it in the embed below. Consider it an invitation to [...] Click to continue reading this post



The Expo line will be opening (after an incredibly long testing phase) on April 28th. I’ll be there, Brompton in hand, to test it out, I think. A couple of articles on it appeared in the LA Weekly and the LA Times.

I’ve been excited about this for a while, not just because there’ll be a station across the street from my office, essentially (and the fact that when phase two is completed in 2015, or thereabouts, I’ll be able to step out of my office and board a train for the beach), but because I [...] Click to continue reading this post

The Ride Down from Maroon

Well, after an hour and a half or so of struggle up (see previous post), a rest, some picture taking, and so forth, I headed back down from the Maroon Lake area, leaving the magnificent view of the Maroon Bells behind and coasting down back to Aspen on the Brompton. I found a nice way of mounting the camera on the bike bag near the handle and so made a video of the descent, so that you can share in the view. Guess who ran out of charge on the battery before getting to the end? Never mind… the most scenic bits are captured. Best to turn down the sound of the air rushing past [...] Click to continue reading this post

Maroon Ride

Toward the end of the week I gave in. Howie Haber had been regularly going on these long rides and suggesting that I come along. The one I would have done for sure, I said (truthfully) was the one with the tasty reward at the end – to Pine Creek Cookhouse – but the one that had been planned was two days after I arrived, and I did not think it was a good idea for me to do it without having acclimatized to the altitude. You may recall that a few years ago I did do that 12 mile route on a ride led by Howie, and it was fantastic. See the post here. So he asked me a couple more times to join a few riding up to Maroon Lake, which he was doing every other day, remarkably. It was a similar distance (well, a bit shorter – 10 miles) with perhaps a more steady, relentless climb to make up the 1500 ft altitude gain. But I did not get my mind into gear on the whole idea for some time (maybe especially since there was no tasty meal as a reward at the top). Then on Wednesday I gave in and stopped by Howie’s office and said I’d join him on Friday.

brompton folding bikeSo Friday morning we set off, joined by a few others (including Josh Frieman), for a lovely ride. Pretty quickly we separated out into our various paces and pointed ourselves up the valley (I warned my co-riders at the beginning not to wait for me as I have a slower pace on the Brompton – the beauty in the photo on the right). I eventually got into a good rhythm and made steady progress. While I was not as strong as I was in 2008 (or perhaps not as well-motivated?), I still enjoyed it, although there were times when I did ask myself out loud “why am I doing this?!”, but that was usually after the dashing of false hope when I thought I was almost there only to round a corner and see the road stretching [...] Click to continue reading this post


As you might guess from the flower to the right, I’m presently not in California, but Colorado. In fact I’m in Aspen, a place to which, you might have gathered from previous years’ blogging, I come to work for a while in the Summer. The Aspen Center for Physics is here, as well as some great mountain trails, river walks, bike trails*, several other organizations of interest, festivals, and of course, some good cafes. So I’m pretty well set up in terms of things I need to think and work on various projects.

The flower is the columbine, the state flower, and I encountered them (and a host of other lovely flowers of many types) on Saturday on my first hike since properly being acclimatised to the altitude and so forth.

I’ve already had some great conversations at the Center, which included catching up [...] Click to continue reading this post

Glimpses of CicLAVia

CicLAvia this weekend was wonderful! Again, just like the inaugural one last year (see my post ciclavia_april_11_cvj_5with 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.
[...] Click to continue reading this post

Being Pedestrian


A scene from Saturday in Grand Hope Park downtown Los Angeles. Several of us turned out to sit, picnic, and chat about being pedestrian in LA. It was about building communities, connecting with people, getting around the city, development, the homeless, the artists, the businesses, restoration, preservation, and so on and so forth. See the site here. I knew about it because Linda Pollack of Habeas Lounge contacted me because she wanted me to come and share a bit about how I use public transport in combination with walking and cycling (and she wanted me to do a bit of show and tell with my Brompton folding bike (you can see it in the picture). [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAvia Report

ciclavia2010_4Well, it is not often I get to say this, but Sunday’s CicLAvia event was, for me, completely perfect. It was simply about community, family, and enjoying the streets. It did not have an overtly political or activist vibe to it (as is often the case when you try to do some things a little differently from others in this town, like ride the bus or walk to the grocery store), and I saw a lot more people simply enjoying (and remarking on it out loud) the fact that they were out on the streets of the city than I saw people proclaiming rabid anti-car sentiments, as I’ve seen at bike-centric events before. I think the former feeling will go a lot further in making lasting change than the latter in the long run. There was some political content around, but it was largely confined to the steps of City Hall, where (when I passed) there were endearingly naive chants being led by a bloke with a microphone about “LA saying no to oil!’ and “no to coal!”. Don’t get me wrong – naive is not necessarily used as a derogatory term here. Noble dreams begin with a heavy dose of naivete, I believe. Hope, against the odds, for significant change, and so forth. (I could use the fully decorated version, naïveté, but it looks a bit pretentious to me today…)

So the event was mostly about people getting out there and enjoying the city streets, and sharing their enjoyment by doing it together. I was impressed with the turnout [...] Click to continue reading this post

Not Entirely Alone, II

It has been a pleasure to see the large number of bikes in use in London, and particularly pleasing that it is a wide range of types of people using them as well. bikes_londonThere are many things about London that make it feel even more comfortable to me than ever (high prices of everything not being one of them) and the heavy bike use has to be one of them. Things in that department continue to improve over in my home city of Los Angeles, although I think it’ll still be a bit of time before you get bunches of cyclists routinely clustered at the lights waiting for the green, as in the photo on the right.

brompton_londonAlso great to see, sending a shiver of pleasure down my spine each time I’ll admit, has been the huge number of Bromptons in use in London. (See photo left.) I know it is true statistically that they are among the most popular single type of bike here (of any type, folding or non-folding) but it is still great that there are so very many sightings of them as you walk along the street especially at peak times. That’s something that really still has not taken off in LA. I’ve seen fewer than a handful of Bromptons in almost seven years on the streets here, relatively few folding bikes in total, and maybe only twice have I seen someone else using them in combination with the subway (and I remain the only person I’ve ever seen bringing them on to the bus). It [...] Click to continue reading this post

New Year Gear

One of the things I seem to do each year is replace my tyres (tires? always confused about the spelling there…) on the Brompton for another year of cycling around the city (often in combination with public transport).new_shoes_for_brompton_2 The beginning of the academic year seems to be about when I do it, which feels right somehow. It reminds me of my youth, when the night before the school academic year started there’d be frantic sewing of new school uniforms, or adjustment of old ones, to be worn the next day. I remember that always being a last minute thing, [...] Click to continue reading this post


There’s something quite marvellous about trains. You can sit and think, work, or play while it slowly extracts you from your city and gently inserts you into another.

There’s no mess and fuss to do with cars and so forth, and the scenery is almost always interesting, whether it be the backs of people’s houses, where you can see washing lines, pools, gardens, gym equipment, horses and llamas (no I am not joking), coastline_from_trainor those businesses and infrastructure that we don’t often keep on the high street – any number of strip clubs, storage for trains and school buses, lumber yards, power stations, public storage units, yards with endless amounts of rusted metal – or farmland growing crops (sometimes in interesting geometrical arrangements), ocean, boats, piers, oil refineries, and of course surf and beaches. (I’ve some video clips of some of this. Perhaps I’ll edit it all together into a video for you later.)

You can look up from your thoughts, work, or leisure from time to time and gaze out over any of this for a while, drinking in the scenery at will. I find that people on the train are very friendly -almost ridiculously so- almost as though either the train attracts a certain type of person who is conducive to this type of mood, or there is something [...] Click to continue reading this post

Bikes and the City, 2

blog on a bikeYou’ll notice that I often talk about alternatives to driving everywhere in Los Angeles. Sometimes I talk about bikes (see for example the last post) as part of a range of options. Well, in December last year a student at USC doing a project in journalism (Lauren Lee – she’s at the Annenberg School) did a short report on bikes and the city for her project. (See also some of my posts about this issue, such as here, here, here, and several posts in the list at the bottom of this one). In her research, Lauren found this blog, gave me a call, and I agreed to make a few comments to camera for her as part of her larger report on some of the changes that are happening here in Los Angeles. (She also interviews Adam and Josef Bray-Ali, owners of the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (hey, they have a blog)- a bike that might interest you.)

I should preface it with some remarks of my own. It is a nice report, but she edited out all the things I said that I think get at a central and key point. (To be fair, she was trying to make a two minute report, and I was babbling on enough for a Spike Lee four-part documentary…) I’m not advocating that everyone cycle everywhere they need to get to. Instead, I’m trying to get across the idea that cycling works really well in combination with the public transport system that already exists. One of the reasons people give most often for not using public transport is that the bus or subway stop is not quite close enough to where they want to get to, and/or close enough to their home. Leaving aside the cases where that sometimes this means “more than one block” or “not right next to my garage”, I’m trying to get across the [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tales From The Industry XXVII – Light Speed

Here we go again! Tonight sees another new episode of the new series of The Universe on the History Channel (you can watch it as a warm up to The Atom Smashers, on PBS), and the episode is all about the speed of light! I’ve no idea how this one will turn out, but for my segments we did some rather fun things to illustrate some of the key concepts. The main idea is that the laws of physics are rather different from ordinary Newtonian/Galilean ones when you are moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed the light. This is what we learned from Einstein’s Special Relativity. How do you illustrate this for a TV viewing audience? Well, one way is to imagine what would happen if the speed of light was a lot closer to everyday speeds. Then you could illustrate some of the effects in a fun way.

Well, one thing led to another and somehow (after a lot of email discussions of the physics with Darryl Rehr, the writer/director) it ended up that I was supposed to do [...] Click to continue reading this post

Not a Free Lunch

Yesterday saw a mass desertion for a while here at the Aspen Center for Physics. Howie Haber (UCSC) organized a large group (twenty-two) of participants (and some of their guests) of the program entitled “LHC: Beyond the Standard Model Signals in a QCD Environment” (info here), to go for a group lunch at the excellent Pine Creek Cookhouse, 12 miles away up Castle Creek Road. And, I should mention, 1700 or so feet up. The latter is significant since about two thirds of us, led by Howie, cycled up there! It takes a while (times ranged from 1 hr 20 minutes to about 30 – 40 minutes more than that), and there are about two or three major long, punishing hills to deal with, but it was worth it!

Here are some (not all) of the cyclists at the destination (restaurant is a low-slung cabin-style affair out of shot to the right). Howie, our organizer, is in the middle at the front. (Click for larger view):

Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics

(Er, for the record, I’m slightly embarrassed by wearing socks with my sport sandals – a personal no-no – but I wanted to protect my feet from 12 miles of pedalling friction, so made an exception.)
Here are some random shots of happy arrivals (click each for larger): [...] Click to continue reading this post

Although No News is Good News…

…(as the saying goes) it’s nice to get the real thing from time to time.

I’m almost fully in retreat mode now, being back at Aspen and settled in to my office at the Center and so forth. It’s good to see some familiar faces and catch up a little on physics news, and gossip (still waiting for some good juicy stuff there). I’ve settled into my accommodation (which on the plus side has no wireless or other web connection, but on the minus has HBO, which I shall have to studiously avoid), and have done a quick cycle around town (brought the Brompton again of course) to check that everything is in order. So by mid-afternoon on day one, yesterday, I was settling into my project(s). All good.

The good news of the title? Well, usually when someone contacts me about my book, D-Branes [...] Click to continue reading this post


Spent Sunday intensely preparing to leave on a trip, starting at 6:30am, with few breaks. This involved time spent preparing the garden to look after itself (I’d added several plants over the last six months that were not on the drip system), preparing various rooms to be more easily traversable for some contractors to do some plumbing and other work while I’m away, doing endless bits of paperwork and related things that I don’t want to deal with while I am on retreat thinking (almost) exclusively about physics, and so forth. At 3:30pm, in a panic I began the run around the house grabbing all the stuff I wanted to take with me, and going down to storage to bring up the two large bags I always take with me to Aspen.

hard case for the bromptonStuff includes notebooks, computer, hiking boots, bike, helmet, books, water bottles, drawing equipment, raincoat, umbrella, sketchbooks, shorts, t-shirts, underwear (yes, I did fly to a workshop one time and discover that I’d forgotten all my underwear…), various cables for charging various bits of consumer electronics, consumer electronics, shopping bag, small hiking pack, the pens I like to write with, the pencils I like to draw with, good tea, medium hiking pack, cloves, black peppercorns, good sea salt, whole nutmeg and a big stick of cinnamon (sort of hard to explain why these last several are important unless you’re also into a certain sort of cooking, and are familiar with [...] Click to continue reading this post

Happy Summer!

The first day of Summer sees us deep inside a heat wave here in Los Angeles. It was already very hot before 8:30 this morning, and the temperature continues to rise. Yesterday, I was booked to do some shooting for another episode of The Universe (History Channel), but happily it was cancelled due to the heat. I’m grateful since I was to be demonstrating aspects of Einstein’s Special Relativity by cycling at relativistic speeds* around a racetrack. More superpowers on display, or another remarkable feature of the Brompton? More later. This was to take place in the Valley, where temperatures were touching on 107 F, apparently.

Wandering the city on days like this can be fun. The first trick is to accept that it is super-hot and that you’re going to be sweating, and so dress appropriately. I always wear a hat too, and carry a filled water bottle, as it is easy to get dehydrated here. Everything then ends up being done in a dreamlike state. Everybody seems a little [...] Click to continue reading this post

This is a Tough One

blog on a bikeWith the rise in gas prices, I’ve been seeing more and more people on the streets, walking and cycling, and more people using the subways and the buses. While I know that it has been producing real hardship for some people, I have to admit that it has been fantastic to see this change. So many streets and street corners have come to life. It has always been clear that higher gas prices would have this positive change, and I’ve hoped for it in some ways, but I wish that it had not come about in this way. I’d rather that it was because we’d managed to break out of a political climate so selfish and naive that nobody could propose raising taxes to an extent that would simultaneously give an incentive for people to use their cars less while at the same time providing much needed revenue with which to improve public transport infrastructure. Sadly, instead we’re just having high prices with nothing to show for it but a bunch of expressions of anger, while the oil companies and producers get fatter and fatter.

When I say I’d been hoping for higher prices, I need to clarify. I’m completely aware of [...] Click to continue reading this post

Consider the Alternatives

multiple parallel branes, often used as central idea of alternative universesTomorrow I’m shooting all day for a TV show that is going to focus on the idea of alternative universes (or parallel universes, if you prefer). Should be fun. The setting at least will be interesting (more on that later) and it ought to be interesting to see how the writer puts all the material together into a coherent narrative. Part of my job will be to try to emphasize that while parallel/alternative universes show up a lot in actual scientific discussions (and have done for a long time), we have not yet had anything like a good observational or experimental reason to believe in their existence anywhere other than in our imaginations. It’s vital to get this across (I hope they don’t just edit it out) because people are so willing to believe in many half-baked fanciful ideas – and this is one of them – and when they show up in a science documentary (this is (again) for the History Channel’s “The Universe” series, which has been very good) with actual scientists being quoted, one should be especially careful (as we were on the “Cosmic Holes” episode (with different filmmakers), which has proven to be rather popular, and is full of speculative ideas like travel using wormholes and time machines right alongside equally fantastic-sounding things, like black holes, which are in fact a scientific reality). The rest of my job will be to talk about some of the places where the idea shows up in modern thought, some of the reasons why, and some of the opportunities for solving various challenging problems (and maybe creating a host of others!!) can be afforded by such ideas.

All that aside, this reminds me of something else entirely – Do you ever have those days when you feel like you’ve accidentally stepped sideways into an alternative universe? I do. Recently, I had a huge dose of it. Sit back and I’ll tell you the story…[...] Click to continue reading this post

The Universe Tomorrow

Over on Correlations, I talked a bit about the History Channel’s science show “The Universe” (as I have here), and pointed out that the new season (season two) has already begun being broadcast. Here’s hoping that it’s a good series of programmes that will be enjoyable and informative. The show’s website is here.

Well, I’ve learned that the second episode, tomorrow’s (showing at 9:00pm), is one of those that i did some shooting for over the last two months at a number of places around LA. Rather than repeat, here’s what I said:

The next one, to air on Tuesday the 4th December, is called “Cosmic Holes” (yeah, I know), and the subject matter will be right on the edge of the known and the unknown, talking about black holes, white holes, and wormholes. While we know that the first are out there, the second two, while also solutions of Einstein’s General Relativity, are still theoretical constructs (and not without problems). The show explores some of the ideas and the prospects for the ideas surrounding

[...] Click to continue reading this post

Tales From The Industry, XII – A Shooting Diary

Here’s my promised report/diary on yesterday’s adventures in film-making.

history channel shoot september6:45am Got up a bit earlier than perhaps I should have, given that I got to sleep at 1:00am. Spent a while reading a ton of email, and sending some more. Will be away from my regular professoring duties for the whole day, and so wanted to make sure the fort was held. Prepared some appropriate TV clothing (pretty much what I wear normally anyway – simple solid colours), and so forth. Attempted to beautify myself just a tad (with the usual…inconclusive results). Shower and so forth. Coffee and oatmeal, sprinkled with NPR… Read a bit of stuff on dates of historical background on material I’ll be talking about. I often forget that sort of thing, and its never ever needed whenever I do remind myself of it, so after a few minutes I decided not to bother. The core physics ideas are more important, ultimately. Spent time looking for rain gear (the micro-brolly, basically), since supposedly there’s going to be a rainstorm later (hurrah! finally!). Ready to go.

8:45am Fifteen minutes later than I intended to (how did that happen?), I set off to walk to the Sunset/Vermont Red Line subway station. Waved to a neighbour, and we exchanged pleasantries about how nice a day it was.

8:47am Walked past surprised neighbour back toward home…. briskly.

8:52am Riding the Brompton (the folding bike, for those of you not keeping up), I cycled off to the Sunset/Vermont station.

9:01am Arrive at said station on schedule (one minute late does not count in LA), and [...] Click to continue reading this post

Funky Hideaway

lost souls cafeI love downtown Los Angeles. No two ways about it. It’s rapidly getting better, as you may have heard, and there are so many interesting things to find down there. I hope to do a report sometime on an extended walkabout I did down there last month, but that’s for another time. It is also great to cycle around, as I do quite a lot.

Today, still in the heatwave, I left campus to go and hide downtown, first stopping by the excellent Grand Central Market for a bit of shopping for ingredients for a special dish I am going to prepare for a Salon-style gathering at some friends’ on Saturday. More on that later. Then I went to work in one of my favourite cafes in the city. I shouldn’t give away my hideouts, but there’s only you and me reading, right? It’s the Lost Souls Cafe, hidden down an alleyway (Harlem Place Alley) off fourth street between Spring and Main. Perfect for the subway at Pershing Square, and one of the few non-bar type places open until 10:00pm downtown. (Wish it would go until 1:00am or so.)

It’s a fantastic place, as you can see from their website, but relatively few people that [...] Click to continue reading this post

Showing a Different Way

danica mckellar from and AP articleDanica McKellar (the actress who played the girl “Winnie” in that show “The Wonder Years” that many of you might remember) has been working to try to encourage young girls to go more for “Cute and Smart”, as opposed to “Cute and Dumb”. Bottom line: Less Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, and more…. well, Danica. (I’m sure there are other Tinseltown examples here… can I have some help?).

Danica sets an excellent example of why the two (being considered attractive on the one hand, and smart on the other) are not mutually exclusive, while not suffering from the “geek” or “nerd” label that is attached by the entertainment industry to certain groups of people who enjoy using their brains a lot. She trained as a mathematician, in fact, doing her undergraduate work at UCLA so well that she did rather good published research work (NPR piece here – Update: It is actually more of a theoretical physics problem, it appears). This is from someone who struggled with the subject in sixth grade. Why is she in the news? She’s written a new book “Math Doesn’t Suck”, the aim being to encourage girls to avoid the (social) barriers to getting into mathematics. Excellent title. (I wonder if they’ll change it to “Maths Doesn’t Suck” if they publish it in Britain? “Suck” British kids have adopted from the USA cultural juggernaut, but “Math”? Not yet.)

danica mckellar math doesn't suckActually, looking at her site, I see that the full title appears to be “Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail”, which is more of a mouthful, a bit less zippy, but oh well. It’s all very Clueless, in a good way. Here’s a link to the book’s site, and it is due out tomorrow.

There’s an article1 on her recent Newsweek quote at CNN, from which I grabbed this:

“When girls see the antics of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, they think that being fun and glamorous also means being dumb and irresponsible,” the 32-year-old McKellar told Newsweek for editions to hit newsstands Monday.

“But I want to show them that being smart is cool,” she said. “Being good at math is cool. And not only that, it can help them get what they want out of life.”

but you should go and read the whole thing, by clicking here. [Update: Much better article here, by Corey Binns in Good Magazine. Extract:

"The book hones in on middle school’s trickiest points-––like fractions, ratios, and percentages—and presents them in a style that’s appropriate for the cool kids’ lunch table. Figure out your “type” in boys and you’ll understand greatest common factors. All of those iced lattes celebrities drink make multiplying fractions tasty. Plus, savvy shopping requires killer decimal skills."


Go Danica!

In other news, I learned2 that particle physicist Lisa Randall (author of the popular book with the curious title “Warped Passages”) appears in Vogue this month. Lisa [...] Click to continue reading this post