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A Misspelled Weltanschauung
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Clay Hambrick's LiveJournal:

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Monday, July 30th, 2012
5:48 pm
Dark Knight Rises
I basically agree with the New Yorker review. A big reason the previous film worked so well is that the ever-dour Batman had a fun-loving villain to work against. Here the villain(spoiler alert: s) are if anything even more somber than TGDB himself, not even mentioning all the angst-ridden supporting characters. As Lane and Dana Stevens at Slate both say, Anne Hathaway is the only one having a good time.

Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the climbing scenes didn't make any damn sense at all.
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
4:51 pm
Essential app
Hopefully you all listen to Radiolab, and heard their recent show on (a)symmetry. The iPhone/iTouch front camera seems like a natural way to get a "true mirror" (one that properly reverses left and right), but for some reason the default camera app has no option for that. So download True Visage (or some other app that does the same thing; that's just the first one I found).
Friday, May 20th, 2011
4:20 pm
Yo, Google-types
I have a phone interview on Monday that's going to be on "questions in mental math, probability and problem solving". Any advice/study materials (besides this awesome page)?

(Just to clarify, the interview is not with Google itself, just in that style (I'm assuming).)
Thursday, May 12th, 2011
4:37 pm
How to address various kinds of animal
Dog: "Guten Tag, Herr Hund!"
Turtle: "Saluton, little buddy!"
Cat: the xkcd or T.S. Eliot methods are acceptable.
Rabbit: "Herr Doktor Professor Bun-bun."

and new today,

Cardinal: "Greetings, your eminence."
Thursday, March 10th, 2011
1:46 am
Food art
No, not this kind. (Or this kind [nsfw].) We know how Roger Ebert feels (or at least felt) about videogames, that they could never even in principle be art in the sense that a painting or song or film can; in this week's Slate Cultural Gabfest, NPR's Mike Pesca argues, while discussing the recent Atlantic article on "foodie-ism", that food is not art; that "food is akin to a really good massage: it makes you feel good...and a lot of study can go into preparing it, but it doesn't appeal to the same parts of the mind that great art does", namely the "plane of intellect and emotion".

I'm inclined to disagree with this assessment. If molecular gastronomy has achieved anything, it's the intellectual engagement of the diner. And chefs often explicitly attempt (and achieve) the evocation of some particular emotion, even if too often it's a variation on nostalgia or comfort. Food can certainly be funny, which is an important step.

But to be a fully realized art form, cuisine has to free itself from what one might call "the tyranny of deliciousness". Consider musical harmony. As anyone who has studied the history of western music will know, in the middle ages the third was considered a dissonant interval. Fast forward to 1913, when (as Radiolab claims) Stravinsky's unyielding and unrelenting augmented fourth caused riots, but was shortly followed by Schönberg (the irony of whose name I just realized) and all that. But whatever you regard as dissonance, some of it must be present or the music will tend to sound static and undeveloped. Something similar could be said for the visual arts. And something similar happens to the palate over a lifetime in the form of "acquired" tastes (generally bitter ones). But films, paintings and music* are prepared to go beyond wrongness-as-rightness and produce moments of genuine discomfort, disquiet, and even disgust, confronting our preconceptions in an aggressive way. Haute cuisine as a rule has not been prepared to do so, and thus is not yet a fully realized art form.

There are, however, some encouraging signs. Consider this report of a meal at (then) world's top restaurant El Bulli: at course 14 (of 30), just when Stendhal Syndrome appears to be kicking in, we have two courses that are not so tasty, to cleanse the mental palate. (And cf. Peter Sagal's report of his dinner at the slightly lesser Alinea, where no such courtesy was provided and the overload afflicts both him and his wife, ultimately ruining their impression of the experience.) Second, consider my recent experience with the tasting menu at WD-50: the course of of foie gras filled with passionfruit puree exploded with garishly clashing flavors and was really not tasty at all—but I can still remember the sensation exactly in my mind's mouth. It was full of conflict and energy; let's call this Anuszkiewicz painting a rough visual equivalent†. At any rate, it's art.

*I may as well confess to being a giant hypocrite here when it comes to music, insofar as I like my music to be purely beautiful. I ought to listen to more punk rock, death metal, Anton Webern, etc..
†Let's also not discount cognitive dissonance, the endowment effect, etc..
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
5:45 pm
Tom Colicchio shows off his Picard impersonation

From Anthony Bourdain's blog post on the same episode: "I can only guess that in Marcel World, it's always 1998, the sky is filled with magical ponies who shit foam—and appreciate Marcel's rap stylings—and everybody does exactly what Marcel thinks they should do—perfectly. And if things go wrong, everybody agrees instantly that it's certainly not Marcel's fault. ... In Marcel Land, what everybody wants is more foam—they can't get enough! And liquid nitrogen. And gels and powders. Restaurant dining rooms are packed with beautiful women, shuddering with desire and anticipation for foam, foam, and more foam and hardened Crips shrink from his approach."
Thursday, January 20th, 2011
5:46 pm
Briefly Noted
Books I've read in the past few months:

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
Mentioned before. Fairly entertaining, but the sexual politics of two generations ago just don't hold up that well as a topic for humor. (Cf. The Age of Innocence, where sexual mores of the past still resonate as a subject of tragedy. Or maybe Wharton's just a better writer than Amis.)
Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Mary Gaitskill
I bought this because it was claimed to be about sex and Objectivism, two things I enjoy reading about, and while it was, more or less, it spent too much time on backstory and not enough exploring the interaction of the title characters, the ostensible center of the story. Also most of the sex was by implication, which is just a cop-out.
The Escape, Adam Thirlwell.
The life and death of a randy septuagenerian. Reads like an extra chapter of Ulysses, albeit without the inimitable Joyce prose. (Probably also resembles late-period Roth, which I haven't read.)
The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason
In a nice segue from the previous, this is forty-four variations on Homer in classical postmodernist (or Borgesian) style. As both the introduction and the New Yorker review point out, it's fascinating to realize that in the original Odyssey, most of the text consists of a story told by Odysseus to the Phaecians; the same Odysseus who is repeatedly described as a pathological liar (or as my HS translation had it, "indefatigable fabulist"). This makes Odysseus the original unreliable narrator, which is a great way to examine the original text and a fun jumping-off point for Mason.
The Snakehead, Patrick R. Keefe
Nonfiction about the industry of smuggling Chinese (more specifically Fujianese) into this country. Some interesting sociology, but not as compelling as I was led to believe.
Consider the Lobster, and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace.
Various bits of reportage by DFW from a week with the McCain (2000) campaign, to a review of a Dostoevsky biography and one on English usage, to a porn convention. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
12:53 am
Mathemagician. Mathemusician. Sadly I'm not the first to think of mathemortician. Can we come up with some other ones?

ETA1: Okay, I did just invent mathemilitiaman.
Saturday, January 15th, 2011
1:30 am
The Raven
From the first printing, 1845:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
Merely this, and nothing more.    

From the final authorized printing, 1849:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" —
            Merely this and nothing more.

Personally I prefer "stillness" and the the exclamation point (actually I think neither punctuation would be best, although Poe uses excessive !s throughout the poem, so there's no reason to single this one out). That's how it appears in the critical edition of 1885 (which also contains a list of the changes made between versions). I also quite like the italicized pronoun, since it more closely echoes the way one would read it (and "The Raven" is a poem which cries out be to read aloud if ever there was one).
Monday, December 20th, 2010
11:56 pm
Antipodes part 3: Australia
Dr. Clay now returned from the AntipodesCollapse )

PS. Web photo album is now complete as well (though not quite in order).
Saturday, November 20th, 2010
9:09 pm
Antipodes part 2: New Zealand
Dr. Clay Still in the AntipodesCollapse )

PS. New laptop has stopped bluescreening and started behaving itself. I guess the grain of sand fell of the RAM chip or whatever it was.
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
6:16 pm
Antipodes part 1: Samoa
Dr. Clay in the AntipodesCollapse )

And the web album (which has mostly NZ at the moment):
Doctor Clay in the Antipodes
Thursday, November 11th, 2010
8:59 am
Trip update
Samoa was great. I'm now in a hotel in Auckland, it's 9am and I'm about to go see Hobbiton.
Thursday, October 14th, 2010
11:47 pm
Tue 2 Nov: LAX to Samoa
Tue 9 Nov: Samoa to Aukland
Sun 21 Nov: Christchurch to Sydney
Mon 13 Dec: Perth to LAX

Still have to book the domestic US and domestic Australian flights. And the rental cars, and the accomodations...

ETA: So I don't need a visa for Samoa or New Zealand, but I do for Australia? What kind of country is this?
ETA2: Yes, it's just a stupid web form that took 10 min and $20. I'm still morally offended.

(Oh, and I am now a doctor, if you missed that.)
Saturday, September 25th, 2010
7:33 pm
750ml of Green Chartreuse: $48
"      " Luxardo Maraschino: $22
"      "     Bombay gin          : $18.50

Total w/tax: $95.
One Last Word requires 42ml of each, so roughly 17 can be made per bottle:

$95/17= $5.59

plus the juice of one lime @ $0.67 comes to

$6.26 per cocktail.

Fortunately, it's worth it at twice the price (i.e. what you'll pay in a bar).

I'm also looking forward to trying the Chartreuse by itself. Apparently it features prominently in The Great Gatsby, inter alia.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
4:44 am
East Dorm's own Marty Weiner pimping some kind of sweet iPad app after his brother's silly video.
Friday, August 13th, 2010
3:27 am
Canada: the uncanny valley of countries

I think the plot speaks for itself. It's an idea I've had for a while now. Obviously people who are not from the DC-Boston megalopolis area would switch labels around as appropriate.
Sunday, August 8th, 2010
11:13 pm
First draft of my résumé. (Ah, delicious procrastination.) I'd appreciate any feedback. I'm wondering specifically: Is it too filled with astro jargon? Too conversational in tone? Overlong/overshort research descriptions? Am I following the guy I stole the LaTeX template from too slavishly (i.e. do I really need the thesis titles)? Would I be totally crazy to add another section to show my MCM award and Putnam score? How about GPAs?

(Oh, and I haven't spellchecked it or anything yet, so don't worry about that.)
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
3:51 pm
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
12:29 am
Attn. Randall Munroe
This is how that ought to be done.
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