s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: January 2007

Monday, January 29, 2007

A song about a neoimpressionist painter

When I was just a little girl,
I and my mother went to Paris.
"Who made that painting? Who did those . . . dots?"
Here's what she said to me:

"Georges Seurat, Seurat.
Whatever you see, you see."
"The 'point' is unclear to me."
"Georges Seurat, Seurat."

[The authenticity of this song and its use as a pedagogical tool is somewhat comprimised by the fact that Seurat's most famous painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is actually to be found in Chicago, at the Art Institute Thereof. There are, however, lesser works by Seurat at the Musées d'Orsay and Picasso, which minimizes the necessary suspension of disbelief.]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Gift-Giving Guide, Part VI

2-3 The Requested Gift

What it is: This gift is just what it sounds like: a present that’s been specifically requested by the recipient. This present is the exact opposite of the Random Gift, since it’s inherently non-random.

Who it’s good for: Gift registries have become traditional at weddings; they’re an easy way of making sure that the bride and groom get things that they will actually need and use. More generally, it’s probably better to ask someone what they want than to spend a bunch of money on the wrong thing. (This is particularly the case when the person you’re buying the gift for doesn’t have much money.) Also, some people would just rather that you asked them what they want, instead of trying to guess. (I read a recent article about how you tend to be something like 10% more satisfied with gifts you select yourself than with gifts that others buy you. If your giftee would find that a compelling argument, then they’ll prefer a Requested Gift.)

Who it’s not good for: Some people would rather have a surprise, even if it’s not exactly what they’d ask for.

Bottom line: It’s no fun knowing everything you’re getting for your birthday or Christmas, but you can often increase the overall “satisfaction quotient” of a giftee if you just ask them what they want.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cat. & Reference: Authority records as movie spoilers

150 __ Rosebud (sled)

100 1_ Dumbledore, Albus, $c Order of Merlin, $d 184?-2005
400 1_ Dumbledore, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian, $c Order of Merlin, $d 184?-2005
670 __ Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2005

100 0_ Darth Vader
400 1_ Skywalker, Anakin

100 1_ Durden, Tyler
400 0_ Jack
400 0_ Narrator

150 __ Soylent Green
450 __ People

(You may have to be a serious cataloging geek to think these are funny; I find them hilarious.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Katya envy

There is another Katya in my reference class. I’m not sure how I feel about his. No, I am sure how I feel about this: I don’t like it at all. I am Katya! Me! No one else is allowed to be Katya!

What’s worse is that she has a much stronger claim to the name than I do, since she’s Russian and it’s her actual name instead of just an online / 100 Hour Board pseudonym. (I’m going to be answering to her name all semester and I’m going to have a hard time explaining why . . .)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

There are two types of people . . .

Petra once told me how you can tell Harvard students from MIT students when you’re on the T.

“Harvard students are always talking about the great party they were at last night, while MIT students are trying to use vector addition to stay upright without having to hold on to anything.”

“That wouldn’t be that hard,” I said. “The train only moves in one direction, so you just have to position yourself so that you can apply an opposite force along that dimension.”

“See what I mean?”


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Gift-Giving Guide, Part V

(returning after a brief hiatus)

1-3 The Personalized Gift

What it is: This is a gift that is somehow personalized for its recipient. For example, it may include their name, likeness, or a reference to their profession or hobby. Coffee mugs, pens, desk sets, clocks, T-shirts, aprons, Christmas ornaments, picture frames, and jewelry are all popular candidates for personalization. While Personalized Gifts are a very popular type of gift, it's worth noting that they're actually not that useful.

Who it's good for: Personalized gifts run the gamut from the highly kitschy to the sweet and tender. It's usually young children who can best get away with giving these gifts, because who can resist a homemade ornament or picture for grandma? Personalized gifts are also good for people who happen to collect something. Simply buy them another X for their collection, and you’re good to go.

Who it's not good for: Alas, these gifts can also be horribly tacky. It's easy to think that you're being thoughtful just by slapping someone's name on something or by giving them office supplies that proclaim their hobby. Also, these gifts are some of the hardest ones to throw out, simply because it’s obvious that the gift giver really did have the giftee specifically in mind when selecting the present. As such, these unused gifts tend to pile up in boxes instead of being, um, recycled back into the market via D.I. or Goodwill.

Bottom line: These gifts are good for friends and family members who will genuinely appreciate something which is dripping with sentiment, but not very practical. They’re also good for that special person in your life who collects thimbles / Marvin the Martian dolls / frogs / children’s books on great art, etc. Otherwise, try something from one of the other categories.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Saturday in Nebraska

Tow truck: $55

New tire: $100

Half an hour of long distance, out-of-area phone calls to coordinate arrival of tow truck: $30?

Sudoku puzzle book to keep me occupied while tire guys put new tire on my car: $10

Hotel room in Lincoln, Nebraska because I didn't make it to Des Moines like I'd planned (but also couldn't cancel the reservation in Des Moines): $80

Not dying, not wrecking my car, not ruining my rims, and not having to wait out a 3-day weekend in North Platte, Nebraska (pop. ~20,000): priceless

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Recent Conversation

L. is my 4-year-old cousin. B. is her 16-year-old sister.

(The Scene: Katya and L. are looking at a shelf of records at their grandmother's house.)

Katya: Do you know what those are?

L.: What?

Katya: Records. Do you know what a record is?

L.: No.

Katya: Well, it's kind of like a big CD. You know, when I was your age, they didn't have CDs or iPods.

L. (shocked): Why not?

Katya: They hadn't been invented yet.

L.: Were you born a long time ago?

Katya: Um, kind of.

L.: Are you older than B.?

Katya: I'm a lot older than B.

L.: Are you a mom?

Katya: No.

L.: Why not?

Katya: Because I don't have any kids.

L.: Why not?

Katya: Because I'm not married.

L.: Why not?

Katya: Because I didn't find anyone that I wanted to marry yet.

L.: Are you all grown up?

Katya: Yep.

L.: Did you go on a mission?

Katya: Girls don't have to go on missions.

L.: If Heavenly Father says you have to go on a mission, then you have to go on a mission.

Katya: Um, OK.

This was actually the second conversation I had over the break in which a young cousin was shocked, shocked to find out that I’m an adult. I realized that it’s not my aunts and uncles or my married cousins who are keeping me down. If I’m still considered one of the kids, even at 27, it’s all the fault of 4- to 10-year-old set, who divide the world into “little kids,” “big kids,” and “moms” (to the exclusion of any other categories). (Of course, the fact that I’m short and that I prefer to play with the kids rather than hang out with their parents probably doesn’t help my case any.)