APS Blogging

April 24, 2006

I’m at the APS April meeting in Dallas. I would have posted earlier, but we are staying in the Hyatt Regency, and like many expensive hotels it is simultaneously cheaper and more expensive than it first appears. In particular the wireless costs $10 a day from the rooms, though APS has set up a little isolated network in the lobby for us to use when we happen to be in the lobby. The wireless doesn’t work in the meeting rooms (there went my dreams of snarky live blogging!). Since I haven’t been in the lobby much, I’ve been making do with my cellphone’s EDGE service, which seems a tad slow here and is useless for ssh connections.

The expense of the hotel: apart from the wireless, one of the first things you notice when you enter your room is the $5 bottled water. Also the six pillows on the beds: four normal, one bolster-type object, and a foot-wide round puffball which, as S.S. demonstrated, will not bounce on the floor.

The cheapness of the hotel: it has a severe problem with soundproofing. Our room is right next to the elevator and overlooks the tracks of Dallas’s Union Station, which leads to wheezing noises and low-frequency rumbling at all hours. This might be chalked up to us getting a really lousy room, except that the meeting rooms aren’t much better. The staff wheel unoiled carts around in corridors next to the plenary talks, and a couple of the rooms appear to be right under the train tracks, making the light rail schedules painfully apparent.

Also: convincing them to give us three washcloths was a lot harder than it should have been (surprisingly, since my experience is hotels give double doubles three but not four). Their cable listings have notable lacunae (Comedy Central and Cartoon Network), and at any rate do not correspond to what is actually on the television. And so on…

Maybe next time I’ll actually talk about the physics?

CDF B_s mixing analysis

April 10, 2006

Ivan Furic is recorded here talking about the new CDF Bs mixing results: apparently 3.5 σ …

American Dreamz sneak

April 7, 2006

So we at Cornell Cinema were “treated” to a sneak preview of the new movie “American Dreamz,” courtesy of Universal. That was on Wednesday, but I’ve been busy, so bear with me, gentle reader.

Universal provided the cinema’s managing director with a script to read by way of introduction, which obviously caused him great pain in places (“Universal reminds you that American Dreamz cancome true!”). The studio also provided swag in the form of t-shirts with lines from the movie that were raffled off as ushers went up and down the aisles with black collection boxes for those wishing to donate to the cinema (“it’s just like church!”). In an orgy of self-referentiality, the audience was invited to compete by sending in videos of themselves singing the movie’s “theme song,” titled, I kid you not, “Dreamz With A ‘Z.'”

In spite of this, as a fellow projectionist exclaimed while bursting through the booth door at the end of the show, “that was so much better than I expected.” Not to say it’s particularly life-changing or memorable; but it is in fact quite competent, and certainly has no reason to be ashamed of itself. A satire of politics and American Idol, from the director of “American Pie,” could have gone horribly wrong, but somehow failed to. Humor-wise, it’s hardly an “Airplane!”-style laughfest but it definitely has its moments.

Interestingly, the characters are permitted a lot of nuance. The President character, in some respects a clear send-up of Bush, isn’t evil or particularly stupid; he’s merely kept isolated from the real world, is unclear as to why he even bothered running for office, and is caught carefully going through The Guardian when he discovers newspapers. The host of “American Dreamz” is a superficial cad, but he’s perfectly honest about it. And so on.

The movie even explicitly poses the question “how can a country as willing as it is to let foreigners take a crack at success here still act with such disregard for them when they’re still in other countries?” It’s a complex question, and not one that gets answered. All things considered, American Dreamz seems to take the position that, even though good things may happen to bad people and vice versa, we’ll muddle through somehow. There have been worse philosophies.