By Sean Carroll | January 8, 2006 3:19 pm

Robin at 3 Quarks Daily has tagged me with a meme. For the less blogocentric among our readers, it’s the internet hybrid of a chain letter and a personal ad — you’re supposed to answer a set of questions and then send it along to other people. This is a 7×7 meme, with seven answers to seven questions. (It seems to have become a little stuffier since its earlier days.)

  1. Seven things to do before I die: Learn French, become a passable bass player, learn to tango, spend at least six months living in Paris, publish a novel &/or play, fly an airplane, testify before Congress
  2. Seven things I cannot do: Speak any foreign languages at all (dammit), play any musical instruments decently (dammit), dance (sigh), cook a variety of dishes without recipes in front of me, surf, pay my bills on time, tell when people are bluffing
  3. Seven things that attract me to [Chicago]: Von Freeman, Patricia Barber, Webster’s Wine Bar, the Weiner’s Circle, Cloud Gate, the skyline view from the Adler Planetarium, Remy Bumppo
  4. Seven things I say most often: “Sadly”, “I don’t understand what that can possibly mean”, “I’ll get it done this weekend”, “Sure”, “Lagrangian”, “Raise”, “Dessert sounds good”
  5. Seven books I love: Pride & Prejudice (Austen), Mason & Dixon (Pynchon), The Book of Revelation (Thomson), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein), Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (Monk), Love in a Dead Language (Siegel), The Debt to Pleasure (Lanchester)
  6. Seven movies I could watch over and over again: Brazil, Dr. Strangelove, Bound, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Casablanca, Vanya on 42nd Street, Mullholand Drive
  7. Seven people I want to join in: Edward Witten, Jeanette Winterson, Tom Stoppard, Angelina Jolie, John Medeski, Jared Diamond, Barack Obama

By not taking the final question realistically, I will likely be held in contempt by the spirits of the blogosphere and my hard drive will crash or something equally awful. But readers are encouraged to answer themselves, either in comments or on their own blogs.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Entertainment, Internet
  • spyder

    I would think that some negatively connoted expletive would follow the word “Raise” in line with your inability to tell when others are bluffing.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Sadly, there was only room for seven things I often say.

  • Dissident

    Most unexpectedly, we have a favorite book in common (can you guess which one?). I don’t understand what that can possibly mean.

  • Sam Gralla

    Seven things to do before I die: see the earth from outer-space, write an opera, fall in love, sing Otello, have an uncontrollable fit of tears, speak freely about my darkest thoughts, commit suicide.

    I’d also do books I love but there aren’t seven.

  • Rob

    A physicist should tango. A girl from Chicago I met dancing tango in Milwaukee tells me it’s popular among the physics grads at Northwestern.

    There’s a bunch of great tango in Chicago, the only places in the states that are better are NY and San Francisco. It does take a fair amount of time to learn, though – quite a bit tougher than swing or latin club stuff.

  • Rob

    Or maybe a deal – you give me funding and teach me cosmology, and I’ll teach you to tango. I’ve been doing physics off-and-on since ’96 and tango off-and-on since ’98. There’s a new way to get into a grad school…

  • erc

    I think a seventh comment is in order for this post…So:

    Sam, I think you could combine several of your ambitions quite neatly:

    Fall in love, then have a terrible break-up, leading to an uncontrollable fit of tears (you’ve never had one?!? Seriously? Wow). You can then write your opera about this experience, perhaps expressing freely your darkest thoughts in song, before committing suicide in desperation for your lost love.

    Oh, and Pharyngula did this a while ago, and refused to nominate more than one person for the last question, a move followed by Dr.B.

  • Sam Gralla

    Hi erc,

    The ironic thing about your post is that I’ve actually imagined such a scenario before… many times in fact :). Although usually the girl dies rather than breaks up with me; that way fate is to blame and it’s all the more poetic.

    I have often blamed my lack of talent as a composer on my lack of emotional experiences (like uncontrollable fits of tears), but more likely my lack of talent is due to… a lack of talent :).

    One of the most telling moments of my life was when my father told me, when I was seventeen, that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (turned out it was a misdiagnosis and he has since recovered). He told my sister and me, and then immediately made us leave the room to go do what we had previously been doing. I don’t remember what I had previously been doing, but after he told us I went straight to the piano, to improvise. Part of me said, “this will make you feel better,” and another part of me said, “this is your chance!” (to make music). I’ve always felt guilty about that second part of me, but it was there, and I was as aware of it at the time as I am now. I was of course geniunely sad, and did cry some, for my father and especially for my mother, and for myself, but soon the tears were slowing and yet I was forcing myself to continue crying, as if with each drop that left my eyes a miraculous melody would fly from the piano. I stopped playing after twenty minutes, acutely conscious of the fact that all I had played was the ususal ‘Elton-John’ish muzac that comes out if I play without thinking, in any mood. My two thoughts at the time were “my God, my mother is going to have to live out her life without my father,” and “my god, I’m an incurably bad composer”. Frankly, I’m not sure which I was more distraught about.

    As for committing suicide, thats more of a control thing. I would never end my life impulsively. But I would like to ‘do the ultimate existential act’ in some planned way when I’m old and have decided I’ve experienced all of life that I can. I just hope I have the courage.

    As I commit this post to the blogosphere and its eternal record books, I wonder what my father would think reading it, or my mother, or the senate committee when I’m up for the supreme court in 40 years (having realized that law pays more than physics, but then gotten all idealistic about my new profession). Ah well, to the unknown and the future!

  • antti rasinen

    Sean, there’s one thing you might try to ease up the task of learning a foreign language. You could try studying Esperanto.

    Some time ago I got intellectually interested in Esperanto. I’m not really into the whole world language stuff, but I did find the regular grammar and orthography to be very fascinating. “How long it would take to learn such a language?”, I pondered.

    I have provably learned foreign languages (one of which is English), but the speed of Esperanto assimilation is quite breathtaking. For starters I skimmed through the grammar, trying to get a feel on the most important features of the language. This also gave me a very small vocabulary to start with. (This took mere hours at the hurried pace I kept.)

    After that I started to browse the Wikipedia in English (ie. Vikipedio :-) and BOOM! I could figure out a huge deal of the content just by doing naive guesses. The structure of the sentences was quite clear after learning that kaj means and.

    And oh boy! I could figure out the meaning of the compound words easily without a lexicon! (For example, ĉefurbo means capital city. Think “chief urban”.) That was something I did not expect after such a short study.

    Some say learning Esperanto helps people to learn other languages. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. However, with some effort you might very well learn it! This alone might reduce the (somewhat pessimistic gloom) about not being able to learn other languages :-)

    Äœis baldaÅ­!

  • antti rasinen

    Obviously I meant “Wikipedia in Esperanto” in the above. =)

  • shegeek

    Good for you for not passing it on. It is a form of a chain letter and should be stopped.

  • rien

    You know, living in Paris, that is a very good idea – you should definitely go for it. I lived there for more than a year and it was pure joy (at least the bits I choose to remember). The only problem is that now I’m stuck trying to figure out a way to go back there 😉

    You should go for the 11th, that’s the best part, somewhere around Oberkampf. It’s also really easy to find and apartment.

  • Henry Holland

    John Medeski

    I saw MMW a few months ago and they tore the place up. I never knew the Mellotron could be beaten up like that. Great live band.

  • John Farrell

    Jane Austen? Sean…you, you softy!

    I concur. : )

    And if you haven’t seen the BBC rendition with Jennify Ehle, you don’t know what you’re missing.


  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    I’ve seen the BBC series, it was fantastic. Won’t go to see the new movie, for fear of overlaying my existing positive images with some less felicitous ones.

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    “By not taking the final question realistically, I will likely be held in contempt by the spirits of the blogosphere and my hard drive will crash or something equally awful. ”

    yep. i would like you to note my contempt. As a sign of said contempt, i am going to post my replies on my blog (but i will probably not be able to do the final question properly either. oh well, i have backups.). 😛



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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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