Aspen Art Museum Opening


I just got back from the Aspen Art Museum‘s new building. They’ve been having a members-only series of nights before the big opening to the public in a few days, and an invitation was sent along to Aspen Center for Physics people to come along, and so (of course) I did. It was a nice thing to do at the end of a day of working on revising drafts of two papers, before settling down to a nice dinner of squash, green beans, tomatoes, and lemon-pepper pasta that I made, all from the Saturday Farmers’ Market. But I digress.

Let me say right at the outset that the building is fantastic. There will no doubt be arguments back and forth about the suitability of the building for the town, and so forth (and there have been), but as a space for both art and community (and to my mind, those should go together in a city’s main art space) it is simply […] Click to continue reading this post

Café Talk

cafe_sketch_27_06_14 Here’s a quick sketch I did while in Princeton last month, at a new café, Café Vienna. (See earlier posts here and here for sketches in an older Princeton Café. I’m using a thicker marker for this one, by contrast, giving a different feel altogether, more akin to this one.) This new café promises to recreate the atmosphere of the Cafés of Vienna and so I kind of had to have coffee there before I left. Why?

Well, two reasons, one obvious and the other less so: […] Click to continue reading this post

Small World

I’ve been looking at some of the many changes to Princeton, as I get the chance between sessions at the conference. A significant one for me is that Small World Coffee has really thrived and grown significantly. I can’t over emphasize how big a deal the place was to the lives of many in Princeton when it opened in 1993. Believe it or not, there was no real cafe in Princeton when I arrived the year before. The arrival of small world was a huge deal. It meant not just decent coffee, but a gathering place, a place to hang out, and a little art and performance space. Such places existed before, but on campus, and mostly for the benefit 20140625-075311-28391849.jpgof the student population. I was not a student at Princeton, although many of my friends were, so although I went to such places as well it was nice to be in a cafe that was part of the actual community that was the town of Princeton. Several postdocs loved that the place opened, and we went there a lot. Perhaps it helped balance out the ratio of trips up to New York to choosing to stay in town… Ok, just a little bit, but a significant amount. I remember my friend (and fellow IAS postdoc and neighbour at the time), Marc Kamionkowski, playing his saxophone there (sometimes putting on his “Cat in the Hat” hat for a number – he may not forgive me for mentioning this), and I’d go along to support him.

I sat there yesterday and was pleased that the expanded seating at the back meant lots of nice vistas from which I could look at other patrons without being […] Click to continue reading this post

Take Part in the Festival!

I’ve just returned from a rather wonderful two rainy days in Santa Barbara celebrating the work of Joe Polchinski. (See my previous post for more about this, including a few reflections.) It was a combination of high school reunion, group hug (with Joe in the center), and serious reflection about physics, now, back then, and to come. Now the great news is that pretty much everything was recorded on video, and so you can take part in it by settling down in front of your computer (or other device – those of you in the further (but pre-singularity) future can just instruct the appropriate plug-in from [Cyberdine systems ] [Tyrell Corporation] Google to stream directly to the vision centres of your brain) and view the various excellent talks and panel discussions here.

I had the honour of chairing (and contributing to) one of the panel discussions reflecting on D-branes (as I promised last post). The title was “D-Branes: Tools of the Revolution” and it went very well thanks to my three excellent panelists (Greg Moore, Andreas Karch and Samir Mathur) and many members of the gathered audience who contributed to the free-form discussion in the 15 minutes at the end. Have a look at that right along side the really interesting and lively discussion that Steve Shenker chaired at the end of the conference (which sadly I had to miss because I had to get back to LA through the rainstorm for another engagement). The idea there was to speculate a bit about the future of physics and thereby “Planning for Joe’s 90th Birthday“.


-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Face Time

You know those cross-country trips that nip from one coast to another for a day and then back? There are people who do that regularly for a living. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I left LA on Monday to go to a meeting in DC, and returned on Tuesday night, and while nothing unpleasant happened en route (and the meeting at the DC office of the American Physical Society was good), it is really not something I’d make a habit of. I like to add a bit of time to see the place I’m visiting, and get a bit of a feel of the pulse before flying back. But there wasn’t time. I was in DC for a day and a half last November to visit another organization, and I did manage to get two hours to wander the mall and have sandwich in the cafe of the Smithsonian, but I’d have liked a bit more time back then too. Anyway…

I did, however, get some face time. On take off on the flight back I flipped through Hemispheres (United’s in flight magazine) to see if there were any more large faces airline_sketches_9th_july_2013to sketch. (You’ll recall several earlier posts about my liking to do this for practice […] Click to continue reading this post


I find myself in a cold climate for a short while, once again serving on a committee that needs my in-person participation. It is snowing outside here in Chicago, and it is nice to look at the snow from the window, and occasionally pop from one building to another.

This allows me to pretend that as a Southern-California-softy I’ve had my annual dose of proper cold weather, with a real opportunity to wear a heavy coat and a thick jumper (sweater to those State-side) for at least one time this year. My hotel room is in a tower, and has a nice view out of the window. I tried to take a shot that captures the spirit of it. Pity I’m not able to enjoy it much, given […] Click to continue reading this post

Travelling Activity

While I was apparently catching that horrible flu virus early last week during the travelling I was doing, I was killing time with a few sketching games I tend to do while travelling. I was grabbing faces. A moderately careful face grab is to look through whatever magazines I have to hand (such as the in-flight magazine) and see if there are interesting faces… then I might do a quick or longer drawing of one or two that I find. Sometimes they are familiar people, as is perhaps the case with the one I show to the left. This was not intended to be super-careful, and was rather quickly done, but it turned out to be nicer than I expected.

I was simply drawing with a pen and not trying to be very accurate, and just capture expression and structure of the face, but my eye was in and so… (I’d have used pencil if I was planning to go for accuracy…) I liked it enough to finish it up when I got home and throw some watercolour (pencils and then water brush) on to it. (I took a quick snap of the magazine photo before I left to allow me to recall some features for finishing.)

I’ll spare you the other ones I did in that mode. Not for public consumption! […] Click to continue reading this post

Recovery and Jumping Back in

So that was by far the most ill I’ve been in many years. The flu wore on for five days, with two and a half of them having me mostly in delirium, fighting highs and lows of fevers… quite remarkable. Then I had two extra days of eating very little, so that by time I started eating real food again on Saturday, and going outside, it was as though the world had been made anew to see and taste various things I’d not had in a while…

Ok… I suppose this means maybe next flu season I’ll finally start taking flu shots? We’ll see.

Anyway, I am reasonably sure that I caught that virus while passing through Atlanta airport on my way back from New Orleans. There, so many paths cross as it is a major hub. Spending two hours there gave me ample time to pick something up. Then there’s the plane as well, with four hours to sit in one space in contact with the things a possibly infected traveller before me had contact with. Nice.

I’ve been much better for a few days now, and semester has got going here. I’ve given […] Click to continue reading this post


I’m in New Orleans for a few days. Exciting, as I’ve never been here before, but it has been on my list of cities to visit for a long time…

I thought I’d share with you the above photo of an important (to me) artifact that I visited in the old US Mint building, which has a number of exhibits. This is the cornet that, as a boy, Louis Armstrong leaned to play trumpet on!

This is sort of a big deal for me. It would be like finding a set of notebooks that the young[…] Click to continue reading this post

Q Train Guy

After arriving back home from New York on Sunday night (late) my next tasks were to sleep and wake up super-early to write some lecture notes on various approaches to treating diffraction (vectorized Kirchhoff integrals and so forth) for my class, and to grade several weeks of homework assignments…. all before the day’s guest (Howie Haber from UC Santa Cruz) arrived to visit and give us a departmental colloquium entitled “The Higgs Boson Unleashed”. It was great, and included discussion of new results from the LHC announced just last week. Then there was dinner in one of the excellent new downtown restaurants where I seem to have become a regular (nice to be remembered by the wait staff sometimes).

Today I must think about what I’m going to say in a colloquium I must give at Cal State Long Beach on Monday… But before then I think I need to have a slow day as I’ve really not stopped being in extreme headlong motion on various projects and deadlines for over three weeks now.

Of course, I do try to create moments of quiet whenever I can. It is important to me. Sketching practice helps. I’d taken my watercolour pencils and little portable fillable […] Click to continue reading this post

So Good They Named It Twice

Well, it is great to be back in New York. Multiple times this year – hurrah! I’ve just got back from the Times Center where all the speakers have been running through their talks to smooth out kinks of various kinds (technical glitches, run time, etc). The senior TED people are here sitting in the auditorium and one by one we come up and go through things to give us a chance to get familiar with the stage, and to hear any thoughts or comments. (See tiny picture on the left.) People have done really good jobs preparing, and so most comments are simply ones of congratulations, with some small suggestions here and there with regards points of confusion, or sound levels, or run time. We’ve got six minutes. You heard me right – I must explain all of particle physics and research in string theory in six minutes. I like my challenges… Well, I spent a lot of time designing the content of the talk […] Click to continue reading this post


I find myself on the East Coast for the first of two trips over here in two weeks. Next week I return to be in New York for the TEDYouth event (which I am still making slides for when I find some time here and there between the tasks I’m doing for this trip). This week’s trip means I’m missing two of my electromagnetism graduate classes, which I feel bad about because it is such an enjoyable group to teach*.

I must say that it is nice to get to wear serious outerwear for the first time in a while. I know – this is a particularly unoriginal thing you hear from a lot of us softies from the SouthWestern part of the US, and I apologize for saying it, but it is true! It is sometimes sad to see a nice heavy coat sit unused in a closet for a year or more, and there’s also a nice grounded feeling […] Click to continue reading this post

Gifts from the North Sea

In Rotterdam a couple of weekends ago, the North Sea Jazz Festival took place. It was an excellent event. Well, I think it was, based on my Saturday trip there with some friends – I assume that the other two days were at least as good. We were there from the start at about 4:00pm until about 11:30pm, when we went back (via trains, with an adventure story for another day) to Amsterdam. Seven and a half hours is a good amount of time for some excellent music to be heard and seen…

Turns out that there was great news for me right from the get go on this event. One of my favourite saxophonists from the younger generation playing out there these days, Joshua Redman, was the artist in residence for the event this year, and he did two concerts that day, in different configurations. (I say younger… I’ve been following his work for 20 years, since I first arrived in the USA all the way back (Princeton), shortly after his second album appeared. He was one of the hot new musicians on the scene at the time… But that was 20 years ago, so I suppose it’s time to use a different term…?)

I’ve seen him play a number of times over the years, on both coasts, in tiny clubs and in larger concert halls, and he’s always been great. This time he was probably the best I’ve ever seen him, and that’s saying something, since he’s usual so very good, along with the musicians he has in his bands. This time he’s part of a newer band called “James […] Click to continue reading this post