March 21, 2006

Many happy returns   {Comments: 2}

I mentioned Bach without even mentioning his birthday! Sudeep has a weird tribute post (?) up today, but it was actually my sister who first reminded me of the occasion. Bach is a favorite with me, thanks to my parents (especially my mom) who introduced me to Wachet auf when I was a toddler and the Goldberg Variations later on. I'm listening to Karl Richter's plodding/deliberate version of the former (the organ prelude) as I write this.

Silence   {Comments: 0}

Too much has been happening recently for me to blog, but I'm going to try to get back to it, more for my own sanity than any feeling of obligation (I've long since stopped feeling any shame about my frequent disappearances). One thing is that I started a new job yetserday with Chapin Hall, a research group at U of C that studies children and children's issues. It's a good move, a definite step up in terms of responsibility. I may end up writing more about education here, but I'm not sure yet.

I've also started teaching piano lessons, something I've never done before and something I had hoped to blog about sort of step-by-step. I have one student; he's in high school and knows his way around the piano already, mostly from working by ear. So far we've been working on the most basic improvised 12-bar blues, which seemed like a natural extention of what he had been doing on his own. Tomorrow, for lesson number three, I think I'll assign him the Prelude in C Major from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, which is fairly easy, impressive-sounding, and harmonically interesting. And we'll stick with the blues, probably add in a couple jazzy changes -- maybe a turnaround...

The only other thing I'll mention is that I had a photograph in the Austin Weekly News (uncredited!) alongside an article about Kidz Express, a group I volunteer with. The article is here, and a larger version of the photo is here.

March 10, 2006

The new boss   {Comments: 1}

The University of Chicago is getting a new president: Robert Zimmer, who's being reported as the provost at Brown even though that was just a brief break from a long career with U of C. Interesting that their goal was to find "an accomplished scholar with proven managerial skills" -- a pointed statement when you think about recent events at Harvard, or maybe just U of C's true colors, I can't decide. But usually I think a sense of vision would be higher on the list than proven managerial skills for a position like this.

Baude is charmed that Zimmer is a mathematician, but the thing that struck me most about his resume was his role with Argonne. I wonder how much the university's bid to keep control of Argonne influenced his selection.

March 2, 2006

Inspirational   {Comments: 2}

Well I don't seem to be posting much this week (it's been a really tough week) so maybe I'll post someone else's thoughts. Here's Malcolm Gladwell on setting youself up to fail (thx Hei Lun):

Why don't people work hard when it's in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?

The (short) answer is that it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don't study for tests -- which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you're stupid -- and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder.