March 24, 2004


Posted by Matt

As Ed mentioned, the University of Chicago is on spring break. I started my break by visiting Harvard. Their physics department really impressed me: the theory area is very nice, with open areas with blackboards for discussions. It seemed pretty lively; postdocs and grad students and professors were all talking to each other. I like the atmosphere. I got to go to lunch with Nima Arkani-Hamed and various grad students and postdocs, which was a pleasure. Nima is pretty persuasive, but I will have to see the other departments I've applied to before I make a decision. Next week, I miss my first week of spring quarter classes to visit Stanford, Berkeley, and Cornell.

At the moment, I'm in New York City, along with a couple of my suitemates from Chicago, one of whom is from New York. If any of you ever want to get between New York and Boston cheaply, I suggest the "Fung Wah" bus. It costs $10, and it runs between Chinatowns. It was fairly comfortable, very cheap, and they run every hour, which makes it very convenient.

On my flight to Boston I finished reading Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson, which was a fun read. It's a satirical novel about Oxford. The characters are somewhat flat, as caricatures tend to be, but the story is entertaining. It includes such observations as "You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hindlegs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men." One passage, in which the Duke of Dorset tries to woo Zuleika, reminded me of the Onion's Smoove B, oddly enough.

On the bus ride between Boston and New York I read most of Lewis Thomas's Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony, a book of essays. As these are compiled from different sources, the book is somewhat repetitive. I'm not sure to what extent I would say it's worth reading. He has some interesting thoughts, but most of what he says is fairly sensible and unobjectionable, as far as I can tell. Maybe this is just an indication that I share his dislike of nuclear weapons research, or of psychoanalysis, for instance. But I'm not sure that anything in the volume is well-written enough or profound enough to justify seeking this book out. Still, it's a pleasant and interesting read, and was a good way to pass a bus ride.

One last note from my travels: the New York Aquarium (at Coney Island) is not as nice as Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, but it's cheaper, with no extra fee to see the seahorses or the marine mammals, as you would have in Chicago. It's a good way to spend an afternoon.

I won't promise any more posts in the near future. I'll be trying to do fun things in New York (I've only spent a couple of days here in the past), visiting a friend in New Haven, and then visiting grad schools. Within two weeks I should know which graduate school I'll be going to.

Posted by Matt at March 24, 2004 05:01 PM
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