August 23, 2005

Parallels and Patterns [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at August 23, 2005 5:47 PM

Man, actual science blogging is fun but difficult. There may be more of it in the future, since people seem to like it. If I'm lucky, I'll get some crackpots to populate the comment threads for extra entertainment!

Meanwhile, I have no intention of neglecting the cultural aspect of this blog. Although the open threads seem to be migrating to Tuesdays...

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: This is Rowling's most anti-statist book yet. The wizard arm of the government continues its slide into fascism, as it covers up intelligence failures, suppresses dissent, employs the press as a propaganda arm, scapegoats minorities and political opponents, dismisses expert teachers at Hogwarts and replaces them with ideology-based curricula of no practical value, ignores real threats while pursuing a completely imaginary terrorist plot, and tortures suspects for information. Wait a minute, this sounds familiar.

Harry continued to be a dick throughout the book, but it turned out Voldemort has good reason just to try to kill him off rather than turn him to the dark side. He still might turn evil without Voldemort's help, but I'm not holding out much hope for this. At least we'll be spared the passage in which Harry gets up off the operating table in his new magical suit of armor and shouts, "NOOOOOOO!"

I'm going to import the sixth book from Britain, as I've read the British editions of the previous five, but while I wait for it to show up I am reading Freakonomics, which is terrific so far. It's a much easier read than I expected and the findings described are tremendously interesting. I'll post a full review once I finish.

Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic: I first encountered Four Tet on that Snow Patrol mix CD that came out earlier this year. I'd heard them classified as "folktronica" but this (their latest album) doesn't sound very folky. (Pretty much my only point of comparison on this is the Caribou album I reviewed recently, which does sound like what I would expect folktronica to sound like.) Regardless of the proper classification, it's a fun CD with an experimental feel. I like "And Then Patterns".

Some of you may be interested to know that Bruce Springsteen is using a Four Tet song as his walk-out music on his Devils & Dust tour.

In other music news, The New Pornographers' new album (Twin Cinema) is out today. I went to lunch near the record store so I could pick it up right away. I'm still getting used to the fact that it sounds different from Electric Version, but it's good nonetheless. I'll review this in a week or two after I've had a chance to meditate on it.

Tags: Books, Music, Open Thread

I have to point out that I got DEVOURED on Sunday.

Also, walking to campus and on campus in Atlanta today (I am visiting a collaborator at Georgia Tech to finish up a project), I already feel like I don't belong here. The off campus part was always true (even when I lived here), but the on campus part is more a statement of my feeling that Caltech/Pasadena has been my real home (as in, where the heart is) since I got there in 1994 (it never stopped being my home when I was at Cornell or GT---it always felt like I was coming back home when I went on campus or hung out with friends near it and this brief trip, by contrast, feels like I've gone away from home) so now I wonder if I can ever actually feel that way about anywhere else? Maybe part of it is the proximity to LA (where I was born), but at this point I consider Pasadena to be my home far more than Beverly Hills (where my parents live) or LA proper ever could be.

It's partly having my friends around but I had Techer friends around in Berkeley and while I enjoyed it very much, it still wasn't HOME. I suppose it's some combination of friends and the fact that Caltech is the only place where I have _ever_ been accepted for what I am (occasional days of excruciating pain notwithstanding).

Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll hire me permanently, but otherwise I hope I can eventually feel home wherever I end up on a more permanent basis.

Posted by: Mason | August 23, 2005 9:27 PM

That's interesting, very different from my experience. Even though I have stronger personal connections to people at Caltech and in Connecticut than I do to Berkeley, I really feel most at home here. When I visit my friends it always feels foreign, even though things may not have changed much since I lived there. I generally seem to feel at home whereever I've been living most recently, and in the past after four or five years in one place I've felt ready to move on and settle someplace else. I don't yet feel this way about Berkeley yet, but I think it's likely by the time I graduate.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | August 24, 2005 12:23 PM

AG, you can blame your every-few-years restlessness on the fact that you were raised by a rootless wanderer and therefore got nurtured in that tradition. That's exactly what I blame my wanderlust on.

Posted by: Dad | August 24, 2005 3:03 PM

i heard about your blog from Prof DeLong's blog.

i do not know tons on physics. it would be interesting to know more about things from physics that may affect business, economics and life: discontinuity, chaos, and things you know of that I may not.

Posted by: nate | August 24, 2005 3:26 PM

I can assue all new readers that physics has more tangible effects on life than just about anything else...

Just read "Strung Out" by Woody Allen and you'll see what I mean...

Posted by: Mason | August 24, 2005 5:36 PM

As for what is home, it has a lot to do with the fact that it's ok for me to be myself at Caltech, and the general vibe around me is that it's not ok elsewhere. (Actually, I should say that that doesn't apply to Berkeley, because I did get this particular feeling there. However, I have a distinct preference for universities to be smaller than Berkeley.) The city of Berkeley is very cool, but there were times I felt claustrophobic there.

Posted by: Mason | August 24, 2005 5:40 PM

I don't know where you got that idea Mason. I think it's time for an intervention. We'll get you through this "being yourself" phase, trust me.

Posted by: Lemming | August 24, 2005 7:13 PM

And your involvement in the intervention is supposed to _help_ me???????

Posted by: Mason | August 24, 2005 8:04 PM

Nate: When I come across stuff like that I usually try to post it, but it's a bit far afield for me so I usually only see it when it shows up in the popular media.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | August 24, 2005 8:55 PM
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