Monthly Archives: April 2005

These posts always get me in trouble.

In the context of dating advice, one of the most common aphorisms is “Be yourself”. I’ve always felt this is terrible advice: in my case, being myself means being really shy and quiet, which doesn’t go very far. Likewise, people with unattractive personality traits, narcissists and control freaks and so forth, would be better advised to “be someone else”.
But I realized that this is an overly literal reading; “Be yourself” really means “Be authentic”. The point is that, while it would be a good long-term strategy for me to become less shy, it’s a really bad short-term strategy for me to pretend to be a talkative and outgoing person, even if I could pull it off for an hour or two with enough alcohol and/or caffeine. Sooner or later it’ll become obvious that I’m just acting, which will look very unattractive indeed. And “be yourself” is the kind of thing one hears 20 minutes before a date, not as a long-term guideline for romantic success.
In my particular case, it’s also true that even if I weren’t shy I would still be quiet and reserved. So rather than trying to transform myself into an extravert (which may not be possible) I would be better off cultivating the silent, mysterious type of attractiveness. There’s a bit of the “be yourself” philosophy here even if I’m thinking about ways of changing my behavior.
And being confident about being oneself can be very helpul as well…
(Is this stuff obvious to most people? It always seems obvious in hindsight, which makes me think that everyone else has figured it out already. Better late than never, though.)

Pen vs. Keyboard Showdown

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber examines text fetishization in both pen-and-paper and electronic modes. I understand both sides: I have irrationally strong preferences for certain pens/papers, and am also the type to tweak my LaTeX documents endlessly to get just the right formatting.
For creative writing, journaling, or blogging I usually find pen-and-paper too damn slow—I compose sentences in bursts and then have to wait for my hand to catch up, whereas the speed of typing is a little more comfortable. I also tend to revise-as-I-go which is much more amenable to writing on a computer.
Despite this, there’s an appeal to the hand-written journal as opposed to a text file somewhere, so I tend to do private journaling on paper despite the slowness. I tried doing this on the computer at one point but it wasn’t quite the same.
It’s the opposite when doing math, where typesetting is too slow. I’ve been known to work problems in LaTeX if I know the solution outline already and the solution needs to be typeset anyway, but otherwise I will reach for the nearest piece of scratch paper.
I know a lot of you are writers of at least one form or another; what are your preferences?

Relaxation time [Open Thread]

Now that my talk is out of the way, the rest of the week should be more relaxing…
Kung Fu Hustle: I can only describe the style of this movie as a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon. The martial arts by itself wasn’t spectacular, and the plot was totally disposable, but it was highly entertaining in its silly comedic mode.
British Sea Power: Open Season: I’m not sure what to say about this album. I like it, but it sort of fades into the back of my mind whenever I play it, so I’m having a hard time picking out specific details to talk about. Maybe I should just give you the first track, “It Ended on an Oily Stage”, and let you make your own judgement.

Dude, where’s my slide?

I have on my hard drive a significant fraction of all the slides made for Clarke group flux qubit talks. Under the current system they are grouped by talk and sorted by date and venue. This, it turns out, is a terrible organizational scheme—I frequently need to find a particular slide, where I have a reasonable idea of the subject and content, but don’t remember in which talk it appeared. This leads to an inefficient searching process in which I try to guess when the slide was made and look through talks from that period.
Obviously a better solution would be to keep a set of Powerpoint and PDF files, each of which contains all the slides I have on a particular topic. Unfortunately it would be a lot of work to maintain such a set, and sort the slides for each talk that comes along.
Maybe I should just use Google Desktop Search? I’ve always found it a little scary, so have never installed it. Anyone have experience with this? (Or a better suggestion?)

Is there hope for Texas?

An interesting guest post at The Carpetbagger Report summarizes a recent Texas Monthly article on teaching evolution in that state. The article raises the concern that weak science education will result in Texas being uncompetitive in the biotechnology industry.
To those of us who follow this issue, the connection between science education and scientific innovation is pretty clear. However, it may be new to the Texas business community, which is populated by such long-view, big-picture thinkers as Ken Lay. (Of course, I do know some reality-based Texas businessmen; I don’t mean to tar all of them with the Enron brush.) Morbo at Carpetbagger speculates that the pro-business wing of the Texas Republicans will end up opposing the religious wing on this issue—which would be good news, since business tends to win these battles.
I’m a little skeptical, since most pro-business Republicans seem ultra-focused on short-term profit. (See also: federal budget deficit.) Nevertheless, this article gives me a little bit of hope for Texas. And perhaps this will lead to other such revelations by Texas Republicans, such as “states that support stem-cell research will attract biotech firms”, or “if we had any kind of environmental policy, Houston might not smell like ass”.

Fear and surprise

Ok, I thought my Inquisition reference was a cheap shot before. But via Rude Pundit I discover the following quote from Ratzinger:

At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just.

(For the reference, go here and scroll about halfway down.)
From Wikipedia, the process that Ratzinger considers “reasonable and just”:

On June 22, 1633, the Inquisition held the final hearing on Galileo, who was then 69 years old and pleaded for mercy, pointing to his “regrettable state of physical unwellness”. Threatening him with torture, imprisonment, and death on the stake, the show trial forced Galileo to “abjure, curse and detest” his work and to promise to denounce others who held his prior viewpoint. Galileo did everything the church requested him to do, following (so far as we can tell) the plea bargain of two months earlier. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Unbelievable. I guess he really is a traditionalist.

Dude, where’s my car?

I got a call at 8:30 this morning informing me that Berkeley Public Works wanted to do construction right now in the general vicinity of where my car was parked, and if I did not move it immediately they would have it towed.
Unfortunately, I was at that moment in Evans Hall giving the aforementioned midterm review, and did not receive this message until 6 pm. At which point the towing company had closed for the day.
I am not very happy with the city of Berkeley right now…