Thought-provoking Christmas

One of the things I am resolving for 2009 is to think slightly less and act slightly more, so I’ll start by writing a few more blog entries without feeling they need to be magnum opuses (so recommends Arianna Huffington, via Slate). E.g., I’m not going to check whether that’s the proper Latin spelling or plural of “magnum opus.” Warning: this one is a rambler.

It has been a wonderful holiday so far. Having very recently seen my folks in Bangkok and brother and sis-in-law in NY and keen to have a bit of quiet time in London, I decided to stick around over the holiday period, and took the opportunity to join Crisis Christmas.

Crisis is an NGO for the homeless that sets up several centers around London from 23-30 December every year. The aim is to provide those in London sleeping rough or in difficult accommodation with shelter, food, services (from massage to haircuts to medical care to advice to training), and companionship at a time of year where things can be especially difficult and lonely. It’s something of a London institution, having run since at least the 1970s, and people travel from all over the UK to volunteer.

Worked up until Christmas Eve enjoying the quiet with the few of us left in the office, playing streaming Internet carols on my laptop (developing an unhealthy love for Channel O, which plays only carols beginning with the interjection “O”, but of course! including my favorite, “…Holy Night”) and getting some thinking done. Then to Sainsbury’s (along with lots of other fellow last-minute-ers) to buy groceries, a quick phone chat with my brother (who was getting ready to cook a seafood supper for himself and N as per southern French Christmas Eve tradition), an hour’s nap, and then to the center at 10pm.

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Good to know

So there’s a chunk of society that’s hugely lucky to be able to decide where to hang their hats. The companion website for Richard Florida’s book Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy is Making the Place Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life offers a tool that walks you through ten things to consider when deciding on a city. (Very surprisingly, where your loved ones are isn’t one of them.) It told me I should either consider staying in London or moving to Boston or San Francisco.

While searching for that site I came across a rather more quick-and-dirty version. The answer was similar:


You Belong in London


A little old fashioned, and a little modern.
A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock. A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything. No wonder you and London will get along so well.

Speaking of consumption

Since moving to London my cultural consumption basket has shifted heavily towards concerts and gallery exhibits – just back now from Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, aka “the crack.”

Movies are usually my top entertainment choice, but I still find £9.50 for a ticket (almost $20 in today’s frail dollars, vs. $6.50-9 in NYC) pause-makingly high. Concerts, on the other hand, cost a little more than films – £10-15 usually for the kind I like to see – for what seems like a greater relative utility, as the difference between listening to a CD and attending a live concert is quite a bit larger than the (not small) difference between watching a DVD and going to the movies.

Last month I went to two very different concerts: the lyrical Simone Dinnerstein performing the Goldberg Variations at Wigmore Hall (see Slate and NYT reviews of her recording) and the flamboyantly talented Andrew Bird at Koko. Unfortunately at Wigmore Hall, the combination of a long day and the fact that I’ve been using a recording of Dinnerstein’s Goldberg Aria as my wake-up alarm – in other words, hearing her playing is always followed by my hitting the snooze button – led to my nodding off during some of the quieter Variations… still lovely though. Might change my alarm to a little Pearl Jam instead though.

A social graph

Below is a graph of my Facebook network, created by the very nice Friend Wheel application which draws a customizable, brightly colored network graph of up to 400 of your BFFs. I had a grand time annotating it on Flickr.

My Facebook network graph

You can ask it to graph a subset of your friends, say one of your networks, or all your friends in common with another person. My clusters are fairly discrete, though not as much so as, say, this person’s, and I’m not sure how much of the difference is due to constraints on well-grouped the names can get.

Are there meaningfully different visual patterns associated with different personalities and social settings? I experimented with the latter by graphing the following subsets of my Friends List:

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Getting ready to go

[Originally posted on LJ]

Thursday statistics

Fellow Japanese lunch eaters: 8
[Pa Mon, noomai, N’Eck, Dear, noman, microps, matana, Jill]

Iberry ice cream flavors tasted: 5
[Horlicks, green tea, red bean, Nutella, noi na (custard apple)]

National Artist exhibitions visited: 1
[Chakrabhand Posayakrit at the Silpakorn University Art Centre, across from the Grand Palace at Tha Prachan. The Old City, or Rattanakosin, is my favorite Bangkok neighborhood, and my favorite street is the studenty Phra Athit. Highlights include the Baan Phra Athit Coffee & More bar/restaurant, Hemlock philosophy café, the roti and mataba stall, the bread and sankaya (coconut custard) stall, Saffron teashop, Passport travel bookshop. Nearby are Thammasat (the LSE of Thailand and seat of political revolutions) and Silpakorn (founded to teach the fine and applied arts) universities and my favorite Bangkok park, the artistic, cooled by river breeze Suan Santichaiprakarn.]

Friends seen for the first time in at least two months: 5

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Passing the time Saturday while waiting to rejoin Book, Tip, Nan and Yai:

+66 1 801xxxx 1654h ICT >> Thought would be cool to sms you while wriggling my toes in the sand of a thai beach. Not brighton wifi, but the sand is whiter.
+44 7932 690xxx 1102h GMT >> Way cool. Currently having brunch in berlin. How cosmopolitan we are!
+66 1 801xxxx 1713h ICT >> Wow. I feel like we're in an orange advert. Xx
+44 7932 690xxx 1136h GMT >> The future's bright, the future's ginger!

We are lucky.

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A list of jobs I have held, as prompted by ephemer in response to a list of jobs to which I have given more than a passing thought. Though inevitably the tried-it list is much shorter and less colorful, I say life is long…

Jobs For Which I Have Received Monetary Compensation
(Includes one-time paid tasks. Can you tell which ones?)

Assistant to CEO of renewable energy company
Babysitter
Busgirl at fancy restaurant
Classified ads copytaker
Freelance copy editor
Layout designer for start-up philosophy/science magazine
Pianist at some company’s Christmas party
Resident assistant at academic summer program
Runner for NBC News coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral
Teaching assistant at Montessori school
Temp
Walk-on chorus understudy for a Washington Opera production of Rigoletto