January 23, 2017 (Monday)

by Yule Heibel on January 22, 2018

It’s snowing. A seagull soared briefly into view, high overhead, near the upper edge of my window. Otherwise, the sky is full-empty, a nearly seamless expanse of thick snow-filled cloud cover.

It wasn’t like this when I got up. It was first of all practically dark, but the sky had ridges, a kind of cloud topography suggestive of breach and of connection both. At the moment, though, all differentiation has blended together. I’m noticing this morning with a keen clarity nearly opposite to the gray blur outside how important “prospect” is to my mind. Meditating and then writing in that tiny hotel room, where large balcony doors (sliders, nothing fancy like paned French doors) looked out on a deck that abuts another, some trees, and the walls of two or three buildings beyond, was far less stimulating. Ah, now the clouds are tearing into pieces again, rolls and shreds and shapes emerge, a suggestion of sunlight on the far left.

So, the weekend…

I really need to write up more detailed notes about the conference. Yesterday was as interesting as the first day. Also, Adams House serves brunch on Sundays, and they really do themselves proud. It was very good, much better than Saturday’s lunch.

So, in the morning we started with a lecture about “my Aztec moments” with David Carrasco. We also were impressed (much more than I expected to be) by a talk by Margarita Quihuis and Mark Nelson, from the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University on “designing for peace.” I had been worried that this would be the typical Silicon Valley “solutionist” bafflegab, but they actually set up a pretty good history and pointed out the issue(s), that is, the problems, with “unelected” (salient point!) algorithms shaping our behaviors.

After lunch (and I’m leaving out stuff), W. and I went to a yoga workshop (history talk, really) by Lois Nesbitt, which was quite good.

Immediately following, it was time for Ed Glaeser’s lecture, totally canned and totally “acted” (as in scripted), as far as I was concerned. I felt he bowdlerized Jane Jacobs among other things and that he came across as a Monty Python-esque parody of an intellectual, sort of à la Michael Palin or John Cleese in “Today on ‘Is It?.” Not impressed, but he was introduced as a “genius” (really) and thanked, I kid not, for being a genius when he was done – and already back out the door. The busy man – a genius – can’t afford actually to spend any time at a conference. He helicopters in (young daughter in tow, childcare duties? geniuses multitask genially) and helicopters out as soon as he’s done.

The last talk at Boylston was Robert Lue on (visual) art and (molecular biology) science, and that was impressive. The conference was topped off by a concert and reception at Adams, but by now both W. and I were done, so we left to drive home.

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