Category Archives: mood

How do you spell croissants

Finding the best croissants in the San Francisco is an essential quest. Here are a few great options:

  • Rotha (East Bay) – 1051 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA
  • Arsicault (San Francisco) – 97 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco, CA
  • Marvel Cake (South Bay) – 1614 W Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA

I won’t dare to mention pastry shops that bake monstrosities such as Cronuts, Croffle or Croffin (there must beat cosmic justice, Mr. Holmes went down.)

I’ll take a minute to say a word about Bakesum (3249 Grand Ave,  Oakland, CA), a French pastry / Asian flavor fusion that started in Berkeley during the pandemic, very close to where I lived and brought me a lot of joy when I needed most.

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A fabulous man

I watched The Fabelmans by Steven Spielberg, a beautiful tribute to the physicality of the movie making process.

I on the advice of my friend John Keitel (who lives in LA) and I was particularly struck by the invisible link between the “Ditch day” scene in The Fabelmans, and his short film “An All-American Story” (~1991), a tale of coming out in the 90s. It’s a a heartfelt movie, and an occasion to look at the progress we’ve made since – hopefully we’ll never go back to these days.

While we’re talking about memories on reel, I can only recommend you to watch Jonas Mekas’ As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (streaming on Mubi), one of my all time favorite movies – over four hours of bliss.


Life upgrade: I moved to Sausalito!

It’s pretty nice out there, living just across the marina, stand up paddling with my partner at sunset, and sailing through the bay on foggy days.

1000 days

Today is the thousandth day since the start of the pandemic, and we still haven’t figured out how to hold efficient meetings online.Here’s a useful resource:

A practical guide to Remote & Hybrid Communications – Berkeley Executive Education

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Moment of pride

We won the San Francisco pride… Say it Loud: Lab Wins Pride Parade Award

Ambient music

During the pandemic, I’ve been more and more into ambient music. Perhaps it’s the absence of lyrics, mirroring the absence of conversations due to social distancing, or simply the sheet beauty of long progression from nothing to nothing. In any cases, here are a few recommendations for your listening pleasure!

Ana Roxane – Because of a Flower

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Tandem listen

Songs have this ability to make me travel in the past. Every time I hear a song I like, I can associate a corresponding time in my life. This is very helpful to keep track of seasons, especially at a time where it’s hard to separate events from each other, where even the concept of event has become some blurry. I was going through my Spotify playlists lately , and each playlist tells a story: of elation, of break ups; of happiness and of sadness.

I also like to put songs together, to bend the passing of time and bring together eras and ideas. Here’s a list of tandem listen I curated. I hope you’ll enjoy these pairings!

I love skyrmions

Tandem #1: Obamas
No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms, Ibeyi
Una Rosa Blanca, Ibrahim Maalouf

Tandem #2: Strangers
Stranger, Anna van Hausswolff
Stranger, Portishead

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Poetry interlude

During the pandemic, I had the leisure to read more poetry, and revisit some poems that I have enjoyed over the years. Here’s a small selection: they’re mostly about love, for it is the most pleasant subject of poetry and something that philosophy isn’t capable to treat seriously (see Poetry as philosophy in action.)

Waterfalls – Thomas Danthony

We’ll start by English poets, with Lord Byron, a giant of poetry (where I came to by way of Stendhal):

Perhaps the workings of defiance stir
Within me—or perhaps a cold despair,
Brought on when ills habitually recur,
Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air
(For even to this may change of soul refer,
And with light armour we may learn to bear),
Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not
The chief companion of a calmer lot.

Lord Byron – Epistle to Augusta

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Plans for the roaring 20’s

I was recently featured twice by Berkeley Lab, first about my work on ALS-U:
Berkeley Lab The Next 90 – Accelerators: Conversation with Antoine Wojdyla.

It was a nice occasion to pay tribute to my grandpa and my grandmother, who passed away last month, and give some representation to the people from the Caribbean. And also explain what I do, and what I’m dreaming up.

Incidentally, I had to clear out my grandparents house, and set foot in his shop, where he was cutting glass and carving wood. In a way, that’s what I am doing right now, studying mirrors and carving out matter, albeit with tighter tolerances.

My grandpa’s shop stockroom (August 2021)

I also had an occasion to share with my colleague Alisa our vision for the Global ERG, which is an association at Berkeley Lab whose goal is to help out international colleagues – many of those who joined lately barely had a chance to meet anyone.
Berkeley Lab The Next 90 – Global ERG: Conversation with Antoine Wojdyla and Alisa Bettale

The scourge of sargassum

I am currently on the island of Saint-Martin, in the French West Indies, about 200 miles away from Puerto Rico, because I couldn’t fly back directly from France, which is still under a Travel Ban order from the US. I have two spend at least two weeks so that I can fly back to Berkeley.

Saint Martin on the map

Walking on beach, it is sad to discover that is littered with sargassum, an invasive algae that barely existed when I was walking my dogs on the beach many years ago. This infestation is quite recent in fact, and somehow started in 2011 (see the excellent piece in The Atlantic by pre-Pulitzer Ed Yong: Why waves of seaweed have been smothering Caribbean beaches.)

Sargassum on Orient Bay, fresh and old (September 2021)

It appears that the bloom may come from the increase in nutrients carried by the Amazon river and making it to the ocean (The great Atlantic Sargassum belt.) Apparently, the problem is becoming more and more acute, and I’ve recently learned that researchers (like my colleagues at Berkeley Lab Lydia Rachbauer) are trying to find enzymes in fish that can actually digest these algae.

Because these algae float in the water, they are effectively a a mix of large floating solar panels, and a potentially a great resource of biofuels, where nothing is needed, since the nutrients are provided for free by farmers from the Amazon river. Apparently, there are companies such as C-combinator who are trying to extract the energy from these algae. I can’t really judge if the economics makes sense (harvesting the algae might be complicated, though they seem very easily visible on satellite images so that might help), but developing adequate techniques for a problem that may blow up seems a good idea.

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