Category Archives: Random & Gratuitous

“Of the Wonderful Kind”, a play by Claire Hately

You wanted to see a picture of me in a onesie, riding a unicorn and weilding a light sabre? Why, yes, I can accommodate that:

One of the fun things about being at Quest University is the diversity of student “majors”. Students don’t actually have majors; instead, they choose a “Question” that they focus much of their last two years on. Most of the students I have working with me have a Question that’s focused somewhere in the physical sciences, although some are a bit more diverse. One of the ones that is entirely out of the physical sciences is Claire Hately’s question, “How Can We Keep Creativity Alive?” For her keystone project (the project that all students do by the end of their tenure here), she wrote and is now producing a play entitled “Of the Wonderful Kind”. The one performance is tonight.

The play takes place in two locations: first, in the bedroom of an 8.5-year-old boy who’s created a startling and potentially world-changing invention for the next day’s school science fair. Second, inside the mind of that boy, as his confused imagination tries to deal with growing up. The play is quite funny and lasts about an hour.

And, yes, I play the 8-1/2 year old boy. Everybody else in the play is a Quest student, and is 24 years old or younger (mostly 4 or so years younger). So, naturally, I was the obvious choice to play the little boy…! Claire herself plays the role of my little sister, and various other students play my mother, the Nymphs of the Night (faeries who carry on like drug dealers), Jesus, as well as various characters in my imagination including a train conductor, the psychotic favorite doll of my little sister, a couple of cats, a foul-mouthed and wryly philosophical toad, a bevel of hard-drinking poker players, a kindly old train conductor and his assistant who turn evil, and, of course, Cowboy Bill, the flying cowboy who does nice things for people but never stops to ask for any thanks.

Sadly, I’ve had a cold since last week, so I’ve sort of lost my voice. But, I’ll make it through.

I was put on this Earth as a warning to others

Friday morning, while flossing my teeth, I had intended to tweet about it.

Fortunately, I got caught up thereafter with things like making my lunch and grading quantum homework. But, still, for a period of at least several minutes, I intended to broadcast to twitter about flossing my teeth.

To make things worse, I’m now blogging about it.

If I look behind me and downwards, I can see the shark.

The view off my balcony

I just moved from Nashville, TN to Squamish, BC, where I’m starting teaching at Quest University.

Moving is always painful. There’s the administration of it all, of course, and the sadness of leaving friends and community behind. And, there’s all the boxes, the packing, the unpacking. This move is complicated by the fact that we’re moving into a much smaller place (housing costs in Squamish are much higher than in Nashville!). We got rid of a lot of stuff in Nashville, but getting everything unpacked is still turning out to be a bit of a puzzle.

There are some advantages, though. Squamish is in a beautiful location in British Columbia, on the highway between Vancouver and Whistler. There’s this massive cliff face (called “The Chief”) overlooking the town– and a harbour on the other side. We’re in an apartment building, and below is a picture I took at 8:20 PM yesterday from our balcony. It had been a cloudy day, but it wasn’t hazy (as it had been the previous day). Some of the low clouds were hovering below the height of the Chief, which made for quite an impressive sight.


Click to embiggen a bit

How to live like a college student

It occurred to me this morning that recently I’ve been living like a college student. I don’t mean that I’ve been going to beer-saturated frat parties, having meals made for me at a cafeteria, and futilely trying to sleep through the thump-thump-thump of stereos playing too loud in the dorm. Rather, what I mean is that I’ve been approaching my life something like this:

livelikecs.png

This is not a great way to live. Indeed, my Freshman year of college, I didn’t live that way. I remember people really being annoyed with me when I would tell them at 10PM or so that I was done with my homework and was going to bed. (The thump-thump-thump made that hard, but I had a white noise generator to help (i.e. a fan).) How could I be done? they would ask. The answer had more to do with starting than with finishing, really. You will be happy to know that by sophomore year I de-squarified a bit, and started to live more like a traditional college student— that is, according to the diagram above. I’ve observed a number of college students both when I was in college and since then living according to this plan.

Why am I living like this right now? It’s not good. Especially since a bunch of the things I need to get done aren’t “due,” per se, which means that I never make progress on them. An utter lack of motivation to get stuff done is one of the major effects of a clinical depression, of course. It is also an effect of one of the things that’s driven me into a clinical depression, that is, the sense that I have no future at Vanderbilt or in academia, and don’t have enough control over my situation (thanks to the terribly competitive situation of grants) to be able to create a future. This has seriously damaged my motivation to get things done that don’t have a due date on them for at least a year, and perhaps two, which of course just feeds into a vicious cycle of being in a worse position….

I realized this morning that I am just completing things as I have to, and that I”m not getting ahead on anything. It’s a stressful way to live. The thing is, when you live like that as a college student, you have the end of the semester to look forward to. You’ve got a really big crunch, and then it’s over and you get to start with a clean slate. In real life, we don’t have that. I’ve been living like a college student for too long without an “end of a semester” to tie off everything I’m working on. (There are, of course, ends of semesters for classes, but they don’t represent the vast majority of my responsibilities now they way they do for a college student.)

My 10 favorite “songs”

Chris at Mixing Memory has a post about correlating one’s favorite music with one’s personality.

Learn just what a fuddy-duddy I am by reading this list:

  1. Saint-Saens, Symphony #3 (the “Organ Symphony”)
  2. Beethoven, Symphony #7 (esp. the 2nd movement)
  3. Dvorak, the “New World” Symphony (#9)
  4. Schubert, String Quintet in C Major (the cello quintet)
  5. Copeland, “Fanfare for the Common Man”
  6. Helmet by the Bobs
  7. Holtz, “Jupiter” from “The Planets”
  8. Tchaikovsy, Violin Concerto
  9. Widor, Toccata for Organ from Symphony #5
  10. Brahms, Symphony #1

Most people will quickly notice that it’s 90% classical music, and their eyes will immediately glaze over. Those who know anything about classical music may make something out of the tendency towards 19th-century orchestral music….

Addendum: Of course, this list is too short. There’s a whole lot of classical music I love that’s not on there. But there’s other stuff I like too. In no specific order:

  • Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good Times.” Generally, it’s not a style of music I’m fond of. The driving drumbeat of most popular music from 1950 or later often sets off my “highly sensitive person” whiskers, leaving me wanting an out. But “Celebration” was what they always played at the Oakland Colosseum whenever one of the A’s would hit a home run, or when they would win a game. As such, I have a lot of visceral positive associations with that.

  • All of the Bobs. I love the a capella sound. I also love their wacky, offbeat sense of humor. I haven’t heard much of “They Might Be Giants,” but I’ve liked what I’ve heard of that as well.

  • “In the Mood” by Glen Miller. Indeed, I like a fair amount of Jazz, and sometimes listen to it on the radio. I prefer the all-instrumental jazz to vocals, but I like a lot of it. “In the Mood” is probably my favorite.

  • Sondheim and other Broadway musicals. Some more than others. I’ve done a lot of community theater, I’ve played my violin in a few orchestras, and I’ve performed in (and been the stage manager or producer of) several community theater productions of musicals. I like a lot of that stuff.

  • John Williams soundtracks. To a lot of people, this sounds like classical music, but many people who study and know classical music get offended by the suggestion that this media tie-in popular pablum is at all the same thing. But, heck, I’m a physicist, not a musicologist. I’m allowed to get a thrill out of the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. My single favorite composition by John Williams is probably the Olympic overture he wrote for the 1984 Olympics.