Category Archives: mood

Dreams

I made it – I finally reached a dream, a promise I made to my mom at the dawn of my life, thirty years ago:

I have become a savant!

We’re going through difficult times, but this news obviously bring some light into this darkness.

Berkeley women supercharching the US government

There’s been quite a shift in the US government, and I am thrilled to see that Berkeley, my town of adoption, is very well represented in the new administration. It shouldn’t be a surprise given a premier public university is obviously a great pool of talent, but there is something about the place and its people that is very special and I cannot pinpoint. Among the Berkeley representatives in the new government:

  • Kamala Harris, the Vice-President, who grew up in Berkeley and whose mother worked at Berkeley Lab
  • Jennifer Granholm, the Secretary of Energy, who is professor at Berkeley and technically a colleague from Berkeley Lab
  • Janet Yellen, the Secretary of Treasury and a former Berkeley professor.

It is my experience that the US administration can be extremely competent under a good leadership, a point made by Michael Lewis (another Berkeley resident) in his book The Fifth Risk, where he was trying to explain how we might survive a deficient head of government (it seems he’s been right on that one, though we lost half a million people to a pandemic that could probably have been contained much better.

Building on 4th Street, Berkeley

In terms of science, the outlook is pretty good, with people. It also happens that Frances Arnold, Nobel prize laureate and Berkeley alumni, will be part of the government, will help Eric Lander whose role at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy has been elevated to cabinet role. There’s also the Endless Frontier bill that would double the funding of science in the US and likely to pass thanks to bipartisan support.

It’s quite a home run year for Berkeley women, with Jennifer Doudna who was awarded a Nobel prize for her discovery of CRISPR/Cas9.

More:

Michael Lewis: ‘Trump is like a psycho dad to America’ – The Guardian

Flights

A friend of mine offered me a drone late last year, and since then I’ve been flying it every time the wind is not strong enough for kites (kites have been my lifeline during the pandemic.)

Here is a bunch of drone flights (Youtube), and below a selection of my favorite ones.

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aknownspace

My friend Sana has started a wonderful literary project called “A known space.”

Here’s the first issue: A known space: Vol. 1: Nucleus (my personal contribution: The Sound of the waves)

credit: Szymon Kobusiński – TRANSSUBSTANTIATIO

Wade on!

The value of coffee in research

The past nine months have been spent working from home, and it has now become clear that what I miss the most is the casual interactions with colleagues in the coffee room.

It is a place where ideas sparks, and where information flows from one scientist to the other. The importance of this liminal space should not be understated. It provides a safe space where ideas can be freely challenged and developed, owing to the generally low number of participants, the low stakes and the general mood.

Over the years, I’ve developed several coffee clubs in my buildings (I’ve changed buildings three times), adding an espresso machine wherever I could (often on my own funds, though coffee beans where purchased collectively.)

Elementary Table of Coffee (Berkeley Lab building 2 coffee room, 2013-2016) (@awojdyla, Feb 4 2018)

The importance of the mood component became apparent as we switched to online meetings and we started to lack this kind of space (thankfully my colleague Diane B. organized regular coffee zooms!), though nothing replaces the in-person interaction, with a white board where people can share their thoughts.

Saul Perlmutter casting a definitive vote on the planet-ness of Pluto in our coffee room (Berkeley Lab building 2)

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A fine year

January–March 2020: Streaming along

April–May 2020: Zoom background

June–August 2020: Getting cosy despite the circumstances

A-Ok

September–October 2020: Forrest fires

November 2020: Elections

December 2020: Vaccine and holiday wishes

Jonas Mekas & Tiktok

It just occurred to me that Jonas Mekas, a pioneer of new-york cinema avantgarde was so much ahead of his time that he was posting Tiktok content long before it was cool.

(Excerpt from “As I was Moving Ahead I saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty”, a must-see movie . It’s hard to find, but I have a digital version I can share with you if you ask me kindly)

Kites

Flying kites has been my lifeline during this pandemic, where I’ve been literally hanging by a thread.

They’re like painting in the sky, waiting for someone across the ocean to decipher their intrinsic patterns

 

 

Broken Berkeley social scene

I haven’t had a drink in a bar for four months now, so I’m trying to remember where are all the places I used to go… All these great places that I miss dearly (if you’re looking for things to do in the meantime, check out you hikes in the East Bay and the Bay Area.)

Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive during the Covid-19 pandemic

Theatres

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Brutalism in Berkeley

One silver lining of the shelter-in-place is that you get to go out with no other goal than going out, and you discover new things about your city. I was always intrigued by the Brutalist architecture in the Bay Area – the first time I encountered it was at the Berkeley Art Museum during the Uncharted Festival in 2013. This kind of architecture, promoted by Mario Ciampi in the Bay Area, is often maligned, and while I can’t say I like, I definitely recognize its esthetic impact.
The name brutalism comes not from the word “brute” (though it could!), but from the French word “brut,” where it signifies “raw” as in raw concrete. Here are a few buildings I stumbled upon who may qualify for the category. Enjoy!

Woo Hon Fai Hall, in Berkeley, CA (former Berkeley Art Museum, BAMPFA)

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