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Land of Light and Sun

Trip summary: Visiting the Social Insect Research Group can be challenging because there are too many people to catch up with, and new people want to meet the old guard, too. But I had a productive conversation with J about some academic matters, a productive conversation with N about research and mentoring-related matters, and gave a talk that contained too much data (whoops - will fix for next time).

Then I had a nice discussion with a visiting scientist/philosopher that involved exploring a series of alternative perspectives on oft-considered subjects: what are the alternatives to the model of the University as a Business? (How about the University as a Religious Institution? Or Hospital?) To what extent can we assume the scientific enterprise will remain socially relevant? (hint: if you look at history, you'll observe multiple cases where science has gotten overthrown by alternate agendas) Also, what do you do if you reach a stage where you start to feel like there are a lot of questions that need to be explored that cannot be answered by conducting more experiments and collecting more data? (for him, the answer was switching to a creative writing and philosophy department) Is it a good thing to apply a growth-minded perspective to Higher Education? He also pointed out how I could strengthen my presentation by highlighting the underlying narrative in one section. All good and fun.

There was a potluck in the evening to celebrate the visit by the visiting scientist, and then I left early so I could get sleep ahead of the Desert Sprints Regatta.

On Saturday, the regatta went smoothly, even though my race itself didn't feel particularly great. I'd forgotten what it feels like to row through those wakes that bounce off of the concrete sidewalls. It didn't help that I was in a borrowed boat with an unfamiliar feel. Thanks to the strong current, my time was fast (for me). I can't really say that outside factors determined how I did because there was a hefty 20-second gap between my finishing time and first place. So I'll just view it as another racing experience under my belt. Serving as the announcer also went fine, in large part due to good regatta weather.

Sunday morning, RG had the idea to have crepes for breakfast, and invited SM to join us (AL was at work). I can now tell you that almond milk works as well as cow's milk for crepe-making (fortunately). Then I rode the loaner Brompton up the Grand Canal to Lux. I have so many different emotional associations with the Grand Canal that it was like a good visit with an old friend. Lux, on the other hand, was crowded. That should not surprise me as much as it does.

From there, I headed to downtown proper to a newly opened Cornish Pasty location to catch up with JD (the one who smokes a pile, not the J.D. who goes by his initials). If you find yourself in downtown Phoenix, GO TO THE NEW CORNISH PASTY. It's across from Seamus McCaffrey's. The Cornish Pasty owners spent several years planning out the new downtown location, and the attention to detail shows. Plus you know the food will be good because it's Cornish Pasty. JD says there's a small venue nearby called Valley Bar that is his current favorite place for shows, and he forsees the Cornish Pasty as another new favorite hangout spot. I concur.

Time flew while he and I got caught up on several years of things. Managing to spend time with a good mix of friends, but JD in particular, was a highlight of this trip.

Then it was time to head back to Tempe to meet up with thewronghands and meet scarybaldguy for dinner at Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian restaurant, in north Chandler. My hustle back from Phoenix was rewarded by a moment to soak in a beautiful sunset from the Priest Bridge over the rapidly flowing Salt River. Dinner was then fun and utterly delicious.

It was nice to have today as an extra day in town. After breakfast with JG and baby A, I met with AC to hear about the state of the locust research, and in the hall of her building I bumped into a neighbor and friend who worked down the hall from me during my first years in grad school. She had great news about one of the former occupants of the Farmer House who now lives in Hawaii.

Revisiting lots of familiar haunts was equally beneficial for my soul. Sunday morning, I walked around the Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson neighborhood and took a bunch of pictures of the strange amalgamation of dwellings that are there. The Downtown Phoenix loop ride is something of a pilgrimage plus moving meditation for me (north up to Lux, then down 3rd/5th Ave to Downtown itself, then back on Washington). THAT is exactly the kind of thinkspace I crave. For sanity's sake I hope to find something analogous as I return to California. I wish I could be optimistic on that front.

PS - Photo album here


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February 2019


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