Seeing zendzian in Mister Roberts at the Concord Players. (We didn’t much like the play itself — meaning the script —, but the acting was great, and the sets were truly impressive, and I’d love to see some more of their productions.)
Thanksgiving dinner was epic. plumtreeblossom and silverlibre and I had a fabulous time preparing food, and then we had a couple guests over and ate it. Thanks to our guests (who brought some yummy pickle and roasted sweet potatoes and pie for the feast).
We had a lovely time out playing board games with friends on Friday. Need to do more than that. A highlight of that was seeing tamoroso; much to my surprise, it turned out that he and my mother had never met, and he’s really good people.
Today, we went to the Museum of Science, and had a blast. The Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit they have up at the moment is definitely worth seeing; we learned a lot. And we saw a nifty film about caving for extremophiles in the Omni theater. Before it they showed an interesting little propaganda film about how wonderful New England is, which was a bit strange but kind of fun — regional chauvinism for the win.
After that, we went to the Union Oyster House, which plumtreeblossom had been to before but I (and silverlibre) hadn’t. The food was very good; definitely worth the price. Made me want to eat more fish.
We still have time with surrealestate and DD and Tadpole to look forward to, and dinner with cathijosephine (who’s been on a road trip to New Orleans for the last couple weeks, but fortunately will be overlapping with silverlibre for a couple days).
Life is feeling pretty good lately.
One thing that struck me as a 21st-century reader, reading Greenblatt’s exposition of Lucretius’ view of the universe, is just how far you can get by pure speculation, without formally using anything like the scientific method. Lucretius, and Epicurus before him, made up what they thought they knew about the world with nothing like formal experimentation, with no theory-testing, just coming to conclusions based on whatever they happened to observe, plus whatever biases were already in their heads. And to be sure, they got an awful lot laughably wrong from a modern vantage point. Quoting Greenblatt:
Lucretius believed that the sun circled around the earth, and he argued that the sun’s heat and size could hardly be much greater than are perceived by our senses. He thought that works were spontaneously generated from the wet soil, explained lightning as seeds of fire expelled from hollow clouds, and pictured the earth as a menopausal mother exhausted by the effort of so much breeding.But he also believed that everything in the universe, whether matter we interact with on earth or lights we see in the sky, was made up of tiny indivisible particles; that while physical objects seem solid, those tiny particles probably have space between them,; that they interact, and that while a rock face may be eroded to sand and a human being may decompose to dirt, the tiny indivisible particles (though they may scatter) never change or disappear; and that all these particles were in constant motion, and that their behaviour in aggregate was controlled by random fluctuations, by what we would now call laws of statistics. He believed that living matter was made of the same particles as inanimate matter. He believed that human beings were animals, and that the differences between different kinds of animals were generally matters of degree, rather than kind. He believed that animals develop from other animals, as the random changes (or “swerves”, hence the title of Greenblatt’s book) of the atoms the animal was made up of accumulated into larger changes, and the animals with beneficial changes did better than the animals with detrimental changes, so that the beneficial changes were passed on. He believed that consciousness was a phenomenon produced by physical bodies that could be explained (like everything else in the world) by the incredibly complex interactions of uncountably many tiny particles.
All in all, it strikes me (and Greenblatt) as a startlingly accurate picture of the world for Iron Age philosophers to make up out of their own minds, their haphazard observations of the world around them, and earlier authorities’ writings.
So of course I had to order the Loeb edition of On the Nature of Things. I wish my Latin were good enough to read it in the (particularly difficult, I gather) original, but I’m going to have to content myself with glancing across at the original when I come across a particularly good or interesting passage. (And looking a lot of stuff up.) It’ll be a while till I get to that anyway.
I also recently read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis 2 (the sequel to Persepolis, which I read a few months ago. Both very highly recommended (and quick reads, of course, being comics). They’re great example of the use of the comic format; there were lots of panels which were very concisely evocative in ways I can’t imagine a pure-text book or a movie being.
And finally, on Friday plumtreeblossom and I went back to see Theatre@First’s production of Pride and Prejudice again. And again it rocked (often with laughter). It obviously wasn’t exactly the same this time, but you can basically re-read my opening-night review and not go wrong. Of course, we noticed lots of stuff this time that we’d missed last time. And this time I took a lot of pictures, which hopefully I will eventually get around to posting on Flickr.
Still desperately looking for a renter (or, failing that, a sugar daddy or a winning lottery ticket), but I have a few nibbles this week.
So, full crazy-busy busy life, but largely full of fun.
Well, the person who was going to look at the room had something come up at work and needed to reschedule. So I went ahead and pulled out the telescope, and got to look at the three planets (plus the moon) in it for a while. As last time, Mars was just a featureless orange disk, but I could faintly see cloud bands on Jupiter, and could tell the phase of Venus more clearly than through the binoculars. Yay planets!
Last night we watched Life Beyond Earth. We didn’t learn a whole lot we didn’t already know, but it was fun to see all the interviews (including Stephen Jay Gould — who at one point said something [I forget what] that made me say “That’s silly!” aloud before realizing with amusement that I was talking to Stephen Jay Gould — and Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler), and the CGI was pretty, if overused.
Today we watched another episode of Ken Burns’ The Civil War. This episode centered on Gettysburg, and also on the first African American regiments (and was predictably heartwrenching). We’re really appreciating this series. (And we can’t wait for the Prohibition series to be available for streaming.)
Now the noms: The plan for this weekend was to make lots of food, so that we could each have leftovers for lots and lots of meals (as well as sharing deliciousness this weekend). Last night was meatloaf (more or less according to cathijosephine’s super-easy recipe), corn on the cob, and beets. After dinner, we put corned beef (with carrots, potatoes, onions, and artichoke hearts) into the larger crockpot and left it cooking overnight (and into today). This morning we had a store-bought quiche for breakfast and then after The Civil War had some of the corned beef and veggies as a late lunch before parcelling out and packing up the rest of it. I just had quiche and meatloaf for dinner, and I’ve easily got enough leftovers in the fridge for another ten meals; maybe more. plumtreeblossom took home about half as much (which is probably ten meals for her, too). Yay for lunches I don’t have to buy at work, and yay for excellent cooking company!
PS — And last night I noticed that Mars was out,¹ so I got out the telescope, and we looked at Mars (basically a featureless orange disk in that telescope under the somewhat hazy seeing conditions, but still a disk), the moon, and the Pleiades. I would have looked at Jupiter, but it was very low on the horizon, and (1) it would have been tricky to catch it between the tree branches, and (2) I didn’t want my neighbours to think I was looking into their windows, since Jupiter was about even with them.
If we’d been out earlier I think we could have seen Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in the sky all at once. That would have been a nifty telescopic jaunt across the sky.
¹ by which I mean I noticed something bright, reddish, and not twinkly, and my phone told me “Yup, that’s Mars, all right.”
After all the stress of the car Friday night (and again not being able to start it, even with a jumper box, on Saturday), I was very relieved to see plumtreeblossom. We had a lovely Mexican dinner (and lovely margaritas) in Quincy Center, and then went home and watched the fascinating and charmingly low-budget documentary King Corn.
This (Sunday) morning, I called around and found a tow company that came to the parking garage and tried, just as unsuccessfully as I had, to jump-start the car (I suspect there’s some sort of electrical problem like a short), and then towed it to my house. Since we couldn’t get it out of park (which happened a couple times before while I was unsuccessfully trying to start it but turning the key a few times usually fixed it; this time it didn’t), the tow driver showed me the shift release override, which is a handy thing to know about if I ever get this car on the road again.
That is unlikely to happen very soon; I don’t really have money or cycles to deal with this right now. Too many other things need attention.
After that, we had yummy Japanese food for lunch on our way to the Museum of Science to see the gecko exhibit, which was lots of fun. I put some photos up on my Tumblr account. (Sorry about the terrible image quality.) We had a great time! Then we watched an IMAX movie about dolphins.
And tonight at her place we watched another episode of Ken Burns’ The Civil War.
By the way, our copious documentary-watching has seriously expanded our vocabulary for insults. A week or so ago plumtreeblossom sent me a text in which she referred to somebody (not any of you, dear readers; fear not!) as stupid enough to qualify as a mammal-like reptile.
- Deep Future, by Curt Stager
Stager is a paleoclimatologist, and this is his attempt to apply what he knows about climate change at long timescales in the past to the future, and human impact on climate. It’s a fascinating perspective, and I would definitely recommend this book. As an example of taking the long view, Stager points out that thousands or tens of thousands of years into the future, after (even in a worst-case scenario) we’ve exhausted the fossil fuels and the climate is slowly cooling, our distant descendants are likely to be inconvenienced as shipping through the Arctic becomes harder, and farming becomes harder in Siberia and maybe on the margins of Antarctica.
I heard about this book from Stager’s appearance on On Point (which you can listen to online). He’s also got a weekly nature series of his own (with very short episodes), called Natural Selections; they’re typically about a particular animal or plant.
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel describing the author’s childhood during and after the Iranian Revolution. It’s been made into a movie, and there’s a sequel (book) about Satrapi’s life as an émigrée in the West that I look forward to reading. Fascinating and a very quick read. (I’ve had this book for a long time, but just got around to reading it. Thanks to cathijosephine for finding it on my shelf and giving me the little nudge.
- Sex on the Moon, by Ben Mezrich
This is the fascinating and fictionworthy true story of a NASA intern, Thad Roberts, who stole some lunar samples and tried to sell them. (He also ended up with a little bit of ALH 84001 by accident.) This suffers from a little bit of the “I must throw in lots of adjectives and adverbs to make my prose as vivid as possible” phenomenon that some authors of novelistic nonfiction sometimes fall prey to, but not so much as to be distracting, and the book is very well constructed, and it’s a fascinating story. Definitely recommended reading for anybody considering a career as a would-be criminal genius¹ — or a career at NASA, or both. :-) The book clearly depends a lot on Mezrich’s interviews with Roberts himself (although he also interviewed plenty of other people), and almost certainly paints Roberts more sympathetically because of it, but it was a gripping (and fairly quick) read.
There were a few technical errors, but very minor ones, and the accuracy of the book about the things I know something about makes me feel pretty confident in the quality of the research. (Definitely a step above typical newspaper science journalism, for instance.)
¹ And the message is definitely “pick another career”.
- Our bus did not catch on fire.
- We spent a long time lost in the American Museum of Natural History, which is a great place to be lost. Among other things, we saw a neat IMAX movie about aquatic reptiles.
- We spent some time at a dog run on the AMNH grounds.
- We saw Bodies: The Exhibition, which is similar to Bodyworlds, but felt both a bit more commercial and a bit more informative (i.e., educational).
- We had several great meals, notably lunch today at Ben’s Kosher Deli, which I highly recommend, and drinks at a nice little Japanese restaurant across the street from our hotel (when we discovered the bar we were originally aiming for was too crowded and noisy).
Then met plumtreeblossom at her place after she got home from class, drove to Quincy for Southern-but-less-Southern barbecue at Firefly’s, and then curled up to watch a couple episodes of Walking with Prehistoric Beasts.
Had an exceptional morning together involving sausage and eggs (and genuine Wallace and Gromit brand Wensledyale!). Then headed to Lowe’s in Quincy and then Pemberton’s in
Had a productive day today (despite Daylight Savings Time kicking my ass). Except actually it was two productive days: the one that ended at 4, and the one that started at 4 and went till about 10 or so as I fought with a recalcitrant server. The second part of the day involved a lot of effort just to get back not too far behind where I started, but these things happen. I got home around 11. So forgive me if I’m not quite as eloquent or prolific a journal writer as I might be if I actually had two brain cells left to rub together. But trust me when I say it was a very excellent weekend.
And warm and sunny! Did I mention warm and sunny?
Last night, we watched four episodes (out of six in the original series) of the BBC miniseries Walking with Dinosaurs [EDIT: narrated by Kenneth Brannagh]. I’d heard of it when it originally came out but never seen it, and we really really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the first episode, which talked a lot about the dominant reptiles before dinosaurs came on the scene.
It was clearly full of lots and lots of speculation, and didn’t make clear what was speculation and what was well-established scientific consensus, but it was still fascinating and lots of fun, and I am glad to know (via Wikipedia) that there are several successor series to watch and a full-length 3D movie coming out in 2012. Can’t wait to see that.
I am fabulously in love with my beloved plumtreeblossom. I am making slow but discernable progress on cleaning and reorganizing the house. Work is very busy but very good. Spring isn’t very far away. Life is good.
(Aside: I wonder if “wonderful” is the most frequent adjective in my subject lines. Maybe I need a thesaurus.)
This weekend deserves more than bullet points, but I unfortunately don’t have time to do it justice.
- Made some progress on cleaning the house. The kitchen is totally almost presentable, if you don’t look through any of the doorways!
- Lovely night in at my house with plumtreeblossom. Tortellini with meatballs and pesto followed by a Nova episode (on Netflix) on the evolution of the relationship between dogs and humans.
- Since plumtreeblossom has class tomorrow night, we celebrated Valentine’s Day today, starting with...
- Dim sum at Empire Garden, the restaurant where we had our first date! Getting there was stressful, since we didn’t realize that Lunar New Year celebrations continued through this weekend, and parades and fireworks and festivities, while lovely, provided unexpected driving and parking challenges. But when we got seated at the crowded restaurant we had a fabulous meal and a fabulous time remembering that first date and reflecting on all the wonderful things that grew out of it.
- Two shows at the Museum of Science: a whale documentary at the Omni theater, and a dinosaur show (mainly about two particular kinds known from Patagonian fossils, Argentinosaurus and Giganotosaurus).
- And dinner at Redbones to celebrate joyeous birthday was a wonderful way to cap the day!
Saturday early evening we went to see The Town, a Ben Affleck movie set in the Charlestown section of Boston. We both really really enjoyed it. (I enjoyed it as a movie, but I also really enjoyed seeing so many places that are part of the backdrop of my daily life in a movie.)
Then we came home to Quincy and made quiche for dinner. plumtreeblossom was really tired, so she took a nap while I made quiche and then woke up for what turned out to be a very late dinner. It felt good to be eating a home-cooked meal; we don’t do as much of that as we’d like to.
Today we were both really tired, and we slept very late. More quiche for breakfast (it’s the perfect food that way), and we ended up snuggled up in bed watching another episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos miniseries.
(We’ve been working our way through that on Netflix over the last few months, and it’s very nice and slightly weird to re-watch as and adult this series that I first saw as a child on my family’s little black-and-white TV when it was first broadcast. Seeing with plumtreeblossom as an adult this show I watched with my family as a child gives me a wonderful sense that my family is knit together, a sense of connection and continuity across decades and states — or as Carl might say, through space and time. I get a little bit of that feeling, too, when we’re driving and a Prairie Home Companion monologue comes on the radio, reminding me of happy times listening to the news from Lake Wobegone with bcat1, silverlibre, and ka9sqb.)
Anyway, as I said, we were both inexplicably sleepy, so we had a very lazy afternoon puttering around the house, and ended up grabbing dinner at IHOP on my way to walk plumtreeblossom to the T station (we were aiming for Outback Steakhouse, but their Quincy location has closed). And since seeing plumtreeblossom off, I’ve had a very sleepy but pleasant evening at home.
Yesterday it was uncomfortably hot and humid. Today the temperature, the breezy energy in the air, and the piles of dry yellow leaves all say autumn. (And the temperature, in fact, says late autumn.) But the whole weekend has been beautiful.
plumtreeblossom and I tried to go next door to the Rose Space Center, but we got there close enough to closing that we couldn't see a show, so we went back to the AMNH for another half hour or so.
After that, we met nex0s and midnightstation for dinner nearby, and had a fabulous time. I'd seen nex0s in Boston a few months ago, but I hadn't seen midnightstation in far too long.
On Sunday, we got together at Fred's, a dog-themed restaurant I've posted about before, for brunch with beetiger, eisa, and fairyleathrdady, who surprised us by paying for brunch. Lovely seeing all of them, and I'm so glad beetiger drove in to meet us.
Then we made our way back to Chinatown to take the Fung Wah back to Boston and had a lovely snuggly trip back with lots of nice conversation.
Y'all should also go read plumtreeblossom's post about the weekend here, since I'm posting this in a hurry and I'm certainly missing stuff.
Today, on my way home from dropping plumtreeblossom off at her house, I overheard on NPR that Mary Roach had a new book out about the science of sex. It’s called Bonk.
You can bet I placed an order as soon as I got home.
On a related subject golux_org reminded me that our mutual friend dalek (a/k/a Marek), who works with the Clay Center Observatory, was one of the people who took this impressively detailed ground-based photo of the ISS and Atlantis during the previous shuttle mission to the ISS. Atlantis is docked to the bottom-left of the main space station body, between the two large groups of solar panels, mostly in shadow and pointed away (with the main engines pointed towards earth), so we’re looking at the rear of the shuttle. The ISS is well-lit. It’s worth clicking through the picture on that page to the higher-resolution version; you can see considerably more detail.
(BTW, my userpic for this post is the Hubble Space Telescope; nothing to do with the ISS.)
Then this morning I brought over corned beef and some veggies, which we put in plumtreeblossom’s crockpot for the day while (after bacon and eggs which plumtreeblossom) we went to the Aquarium for the afternoon. It was unusually crowded (neither plumtreeblossom nor I had seen it quite that crowded before, and we got a wheelchair for plumtreeblossom’s mom, who broke her foot a couple months ago and isn’t up to lots of walking yet, and it was quite a challenge getting through the crowds to see the exhibits with the wheelchair. We’d see a gap we could squeeze into and start for it, but within three or four seconds it was full. So there was a lot of waiting, but it was still quite a lot of fun for all three of us. The sea lions and penguins were utterly adorable as always. (sionnagh, I told them how you used to feed the penguins. They were all rockhoppers then, right? Now they’re all or mostly African penguins.)
Then we came back to plumtreeblossom’s place (where her wildflower garden is doing quite nicely, thank you) for corned beef, which we got to share with her housemate vanguardcdk who arrived just as we did. After dinner there was cake with ice cream, and then we sat on the balcony and chatted for a while.
Now I am home, and I think I’m going to go to bed early (maybe after reading a little more of Harry Potter). It makes sense that I’m sleepy, since I woke up out of a prosaic-but-inexplicably-creepy dream at 6:30 this morning (which would count as sleeping in for ka9sqb, I’m sure, but is unthinkably early for me) and couldn’t get back to sleep.
In other news, I have a doctor’s appointment (with another doctor in my PCP’s office since he said it had to be a morning appointment and he didn’t have any available until the very end of August) to gauge the results of my hormone treatment. I presume it will involve bloodwork and that’s why the time of day matters. (The short subjective version is that I’m doing much better since I started treatment, but don’t feel like I’m quite there yet, so I think my thyroid dosage needs some tweaking. I think my testosterone dosage is probably fine.)
(The earlier after sunset you look, the higher they’ll be in the sky.)
More “entoptic phenomena”.
(Now it’s really time for me to go to bed!)