It is a cool and damp morning here in Los Angeles. There’s a slow mist covering everything in moisture, and there are dripping sounds from many directions if you are still and listen. I made a cup of tea at about 7:00am and decided, what with the mist, the coolness, and the Saturdayness, to head back to bed for an hour. But on my way there I spotted my friend outside in the garden, so we hung out for a while, before he eventually wandered off down the street (possibly a bit miffed at me encouraging him to chase an annoying squirrel rather than just sit and have a good groom…).
Somehow this put my in mind of the following film*. Yes, it is for an advertisement for Ikea (other curiously-named, fun-to-assemble and maybe-soon-to-fall-apart furniture is available), but it is still quite lovely. 100 cats let loose in an Ikea – fun!
I’ve never been one for the naive Obama-gushing, you may have noticed, but I can’t resist this lovely tribute. It is the site called “President Obama Looking at Awesome Things”, a collection of “photos”, and the example to the left is one of my favourites. (Click for larger view.)
It is excellent use of certain looks he gets on his face when doing things like “looking interested” at things. Isn’t photoshop great?
Have you heard about the rematch between Kasparov and Karpov, in commemoration of the classic matches of the 1980s? (I was always a Kasparov fan, myself). What is different about this time is that they are playing speed chess. (Collective sharp intake of breath… distant tinkling sound of dropped gins-and-tonic all over the web…) There’s a nice story by Giles Tremlett in the Guardian with some background on the earlier matches, their rivalry, and some discussion of the 80s era for those of you who suspect that period was only in black and white. There are some nice pictures (old and new) here. I cheekily borrowed the one above right (credited Kai Foersterling/EPA) for this post.
Look, the K vs K speed chess thing was bound to happen, given our increasingly limited collective attention span. Everybody is apparently too busy to take time to focus on anything for much of a length of time, so adjustments are happening to… Continue reading ‘Speed Demons’
Do you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking “How come I never noticed this before after so many years?!”. Perhaps it wasn’t here before (upstairs from the Butcher’s Block, in Aspen, CO). I don’t know, but it makes for an amusing picture to me (click for larger view):
Ah. I see that it’s been three days since my last confession. Gosh.
Well, it’s been a quiet weekend here in, er, my part of the universe. Good time for reflection and rest. I had a couple of posts I was going to do but in the end decided to break the pattern and change up my Saturday and Sunday, and the “change up” did not include the blog. So sorry about that.
I’m taking a break between an interesting meeting (that I will tell you about) and my office hour. The sun’s shining outside and it is not oppressively hot, surprisingly, so I’ll keep this short and poke my head out there again before my Physics 151 visitors arrive.
Well, it is more or less the tenth anniversary of the blog. Not this blog – the whole weblogging thing. NPR did a rather nice radio pastiche to survey the business of blogging. It was done with good humour – they made a radio blog, with audio versions of hyperlinks, scrolling, and so forth. It’s rather amusing, and even somewhat informative as a bonus. They interview various people including (of course) Justin Hall who is identified as one of the earliest bloggers. He’s an interesting guy. I met him briefly when he was here at USC’s Interactive Media Division, during that meeting on academic blogging I blogged about a while back. You can start out finding out a bit more about him and blogging by google searching. Sooner or later you’ll hit the Continue reading ‘NPR on Blogging’
I’ve had a huge number of meetings and other activities going on in the last two weeks. A great deal of it involved things I’d love to blog about. But I’ve found myself rushing off to the next thing, eventually coming home, having some time to myself, and then falling into bed before I can summon the energy to type. So what to do?
One option is to spend the morning catching up on the blogging… but that won’t happen because I’ve decided to devote the entire day to an engaging project (not physics) that’s I’ll tell you about later.
So let’s see… I’ll end this post with a trio of pictures I was probably not supposed to take a couple of nights ago (so have a wicked shiver down your spine from handling contraband goods), and leave you to guess what the occasion was. Daily Show fans might recognize the central figure, if not the set.
Huh? Today, I’ve to think about two things I have to talk about over the next couple of days. I’ve to give a physics seminar on Thursday at UCSB, but more urgently, I have to think about What Matters To Me and Why. Why? This is because in the Spring I agreed to be one of the presenters of the four-times-a-semester USC event of the same title, hosted by the Center for Religious Life. This excellent series is run by Rabbi Susan Laemmle, the Dean of Religious Life, with a committee of students. Here’s how it is supposed to work (extract from their site):
At each WMMW session, the featured guest spends about twenty minutes addressing the topic “What Matters to Me and Why,” and then the floor is opened to informal dialogue for the remainder of the hour. Just as there is no one way to address the topic, so there will be no one direction in which dialogue will proceed. The student contact from the WMMW committee introduces the speaker and makes sure that the session goes forward in a professional yet friendly manner. An indirect purpose of WMMW is to maintain an arena in which people can talk about important, personally charged questions in an open, mutually respectful way.
A typical session is described here. This is going to be a tough one. Not because nothing matters to me but because everything seems to matter, and I cannot effectively rank these things to say what matters most in any way. I only learned yesterday that I only have about 20 minutes to say what it is that matters. This either makes things harder or easier, I can’t decide yet. Probably harder. Now I really have to think.
I mean the good type of Hummers: Hummingbirds! (Some types of which are already visiting the garden even though the flowers they like are most not ready yet. One of my Budlea plants died – from the frosts I think – and another is ill. I expect to get three more of them from the market this week. The hummingbirds like them (butterflies love them), although they prefer the Mexican Sage plants which are right Continue reading ‘Hummers’
I learned from Amara about this matter (anti-Scientology activist Keith Henson being arrested) from comments here, here and here, and it seems (from a look at the chatter on the web) that this is worth keeping an eye on. Some information can be round here and here is a blog which promises updates.
What I wondered at the time was whether they stopped making the mugs from the good ol’ days of Perimeter. Back when they were housed in that lovely funky building with the interaction room that also contained a pool table, disco ball, industrial coffee maker, and fully stocked open bar. Yep. Those were the good times…way back in 2001/2002 I think. Now they’re in the impressive new building, with tons more people, oodles of facilities, chefs, etc. Nice and all, but much more…. corporate-feeling. Less artisanal… I’m getting misty-eyed. And I was only visiting for a few weeks!
Anyway, I thought Bee (and maybe one or two others) might like to see one of those stylish mugs from those days. So I took a shot of the one in my office that I’d kept ever since that early visit:
I forgot to tell you about this. The name Eris has been officially chosen by the International Astronomical Union for the astronomical body so many wanted to be called Xena. (Keck image, left) Eris is the goddess of discord and strife, by the way. The moon of the body, that was tentatively called Gabrielle, after Xena’s sidekick in the TV show (Universal Studios image, right) will be called Dysnomia.
The Xena supporting community will be disappointed about this decision (watch out IAU, they have sharp swords, see image on left), but maybe comforted a little by the fact that Dysnomia is “a spirit of lawlessness”. Recall that Xena was played by Lucy Lawless. (Whatever happened to her, by the way? I think I recall seeing her briefly in something last year.) Anyway, there’s a New York Times article about it, by Kenneth Chang, here. It’s a rather nice account of the saga of the naming, by Michael Brown (of Caltech), who discovered Eris.
Pluto, as part of its initiation into the family of rubble known as the Kuiper belt (a mass distribution so important to understanding our solar system…see here), has been given a number. It is minor planet number 134340. I hope you can remember that. Eris has the number 136199.
For you physics lurkers at USC (you know who you are!), consider going to the following event (RSVP by tomorrow): Our distiguished (and superpowered -she can fly) librarian, Sara Tompson, in conjunction with the USC Women in Physics Society, have organised a tour and demo of various of the science library’s facilities. Go to this to find out lots of vital information, such as how to use INSPEC, the online catalogue, the scanner…. and maybe even learn where the library is, if you don’t already. Yes, there’s a free lunch associated with this. Poster here.
Impressively, Stephen Hawking seems to have the Guardian newspaper doing his “help wanted” ads for him by cunningly disguising them as news articles. I spotted this here, in the Education section. I’ve no idea what this means, but it seems rather odd to me. Anyway, I’m knowingly passing on the information about the search, I suppose, by blogging it. So there. Go look at it, read the particulars, and get in touch with Cambridge if you’ve got “the right stuff”.
Well, it’s the morning after. I did not wake up with that sort of cringing feeling that you get when the night before had an event you’d rather forget such as that time you said something incredibly stupid at a dinner party, or some other such thing. No, I woke up at 6:00 am feeling fine, even though I went to sleep at 2:00. The evening before was in fact rather enjoyable. Earlier I participated in the “Uncertainty” event, about which I’ll tell you shortly. I was up that late partly because I was trying to recover the data from the hard drive of my ailing powerbook, Mingus. It was a success! I was able to get it to start up from the recovery disc (by holding down the “C” key as I started), so that (after a partially successful attempt to get it to repair the main disc) I could restart it again with my finger on the “T” key. The latter operation meant that when it came on, Mingus would make itself available as an external hard drive to my imac (connected to it by a firewire cable), which is called Ella, by the way. I was then able to go to Ella’s screen and (lo and behold!) see all of my precious data that’s on Mingus. Dragging and dropping copied over 10-15 GB of stuff from Mingus over to Ella’s hard drive. So easy. I love macs. Especially when they have souls of great musicians. I can now try to arrange to send Mingus off to the doctor for surgery, some TLC, and some rest and recuperation. Time for Ella to do the hard work.
I’d better tell you about the event last night. Next post.
So yesterday continued the stretch of unfortunate events. I decided to hide and work on the paper to make up for the lost time from the day before. Got a good start, and then after a couple of hours, the computer started its weird behaviour. Slow….. applications hanging up for a long time… etc. Then I realized that it was super hot, perhaps more than it ever has been before. Perhaps brought on by it being a really hot day. Then I realized that I can’t recall the last time I have heard the fan on the computer. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have. A check via IM with one of my students confirmed that it is really obvious when the fan is on with this computer. So I formulated a theory that somehow the computer is not able to cool itself down in these extreme conditions. The fan needs repairing, the system is overheating and it is producing problems. I put it to sleep and into the freezer for a little while. A few minutes later, nice and crisp and cool (like a KitKat straight out of the fridge -delicious!) I started it up again. Runs perfectly. Aha!
So I went like this for a couple of cycles… Computer overheats, I cool it down, I get another hour of work or so done. But I’ve begun to worry that I’m about to lose my hard drive. This is a particular horror for me, since I’ve not backed up this computer for a long, long time, because….. The LaCie d2 250gb external hard drive I bought for the purpose mysteriously started to remain in stealth mode, i.e., not allow itself to be recognised by any of my computers.
It’s late here at the Physics Center, and there is a hugely violent thunder and lightning storm outside. Good time to work.
While wandering the corridors in thought….. spotted this and photographed it for your viewing pleasure:
I did not pose this or anything. It was just standing there just like that, next to a public blackboard. Notice the chalk in his hand, and everything! Excellent. (The baggy jumper/sweater and chalk are nice details.) I imagine he was posed there by some other person (but consider ….what if not ?!)
Is it just me, or does this put you in mind of the excellent “Team America” as well? Does anyone know where this doll is from? Are there other scientists in this series? Maybe someone could do a whole series of short movies with them… moments of dialogue between famous scientists acted out by dolls…
Ok. Another crazy/stupid idea released into the wild. Back to work.