I've had a very fun couple of days, with good people.
Thanks to midnightmelody for organizing a really excellent evening discussing Laws of Nature with Prof Lipton. I am also grateful to LJ for making it possible to get together a group of 7 people, none of whom knew all six others, to attend cool events.
The format of the "Dinner @ Dana" concept is very well thought out: you turn up, eat soup, hear the speaker for 20 minutes, eat the main course, and then there's an hour for discussion. This made it into a real discussion rather than just a talk with a couple of token questions. It helped that we were a group of intellectuals who didn't really know eachother, so the actual subject matter of the talk was the obvious topic over dinner. It also helped that Prof Lipton is a fantastic speaker and really good at getting people engaged with his topic. He also managed the discussion with real flair.
Lots of interesting ideas and examples: I liked the formulation of asking the difference between there is no solid gold sphere more than 100 miles in diameter, and there is no solid uranium sphere more than 100 miles in diameter. At our table we had some good discussion about the difference between the (putative) laws that actually describe the universe and the laws that scientists can deduce.
Generally, it was a really fun way to spend an evening, and in excellent company. Everybody present told me I need to come to karen2205's Coffee in Borders at some point, which seems like a good idea to me. Do any of the regular attendees want to suggest a particular date when they're likely to be there and / or offer me crash space in London?
On this occasion I stayed over with blue_mai; there are few people in the world I feel as comfortable around as her, so we had a lovely conversation. And she caught me up on gossip about mutual acquaintances and fed me tea and it was thoroughly lovely evening. *bounce*
After blue_mai went to work, I had planned to head into London, but realized my ticket was only valid off-peak. I couldn't remember whether that meant 9:30 or 10, but anyway, it was a lovely autumn morning so I decided to walk instead. It's very unusual for me to react to my plans being thwarted with: oh well, I'll just do something else then. I should cultivate that, because getting grouchy is not pleasant and being spontaneous leads to fun experiences, as in fact happened this morning.
So I walked along the South Bank from just beyond Rotherhithe as far as the Tate Modern. Definitely a good part of London to walk in. I saw something called More London, where they have a kind of amphitheatre and were doing an exhibition of those lovely Earth from the Air photos. And HMS Belfast, the Golden Hind, Southwark Cathedral and the cool sculpture / fountain thingy in Hays Galleria. And just random bits of industrial-turned-trendy architecture. I only wish I'd brought my camera.
I grabbed breakfast in a cafe I think I must have conjured up by wishing for it: right in the middle of all the deeply yuppie bars in that area, I ran into a cute, non-chain sandwich bar. They were selling sandwiches and pastries at reasonable prices, and absolutely beautifully decorated. And the proprietor was a sweet and vaguely flirtatious Italian guy. Last time I ate a pastry with such happiness was when I was with rysmiel in Montreal.
I didn't have much time in the Tate Modern, because I'd taken my time ambling along the river bank. But I visited the "Landscape/Matter/Environment" gallery where they have some cool Surrealist stuff, among other things. I always find the Tate Modern a bit mixed; there's a lot that just seems to be offensive for the sake of it (and I really can't see the point of Damien Hirst), but enough really interesting pieces to justify a visit.
This particular occasion a picture called Scylla by one Ithell Colquhoun made me smile. There was also a modern take on the old still life idea: basically, the artist had made a plate of fruit laid out as if for a traditional still life, and just left it there for weeks and weeks in front of a video camera. I think it was meant to be disgusting watching the delicious fruit turn into a putrid mass, but watching timelapsed photography of moulds growing appeals to my biology geek side.
Finally, I met up with NZ for lunch. She has been given leave to finish the rest of her PhD in London, and not have to go back to Dublin where she was pretty unhappy. And she was eager to hear news of hatam_soferet and darcydodo. We had nice Italian meal in a fairly random restaurant near her flat in northwest London. Very good to see NZ again.