Go West, Young Woman!

I will miss easy access to NYC, but, dear heavens, I love the Exploratorium

Posts have been a little scarce on the ground here, because I’m in the middle of prepping to change jobs and change coasts.  Scrapping with everyone about religion, philosophy, and musical theatre is fun, but it’s not how I earn my living.

I have sometimes said that, in my dream job, I would have a badge that said “Methodology Cop” and I would be allowed to kick in doors and help people overhaul their research projects and interventions.  “Ma’am, I need you to step away from that convenience sample!”  That’s not quite the job I’m about to start, but I’m nearly as excited.

I haven’t much mentioned my current job on the blog, because this blog isn’t intended to reflect the opinions or work of my employer, and that’s not going to change now.  There’s no reason to link them together on Google.  But, to speak generally, since I graduated from college, I have been working at a DC policy/lobbying shop on bank reform.  I got to be the stats maven for the team, and have really enjoyed working with wonky people.

Starting Tuesday, I’ll be in Berkeley, California, working for an education-y kinda start-up-y, non-profit.  I got to do a short tryout with them, and I loved it.  The people are smart, clever, and kind, and the work is interesting and useful.  I really like work that feels like translation, where I get to take an interesting fact, skill, or concept and see how it fits together with something unexpected.  Or when I get to take a research finding and figure our where it’s relevant in quotidian life and how to explain it so it sounds as interesting as it is.

(Oh, and since there’s a big teaching component to this job, I get to do a lot of talking.  My cup runneth over, obviously).

The second to last time I was teaching in the Bay Area

Not much will change for readers of this blog, but, as I try and figure out how to pack all my armor, bustle skirts, and all the books in the world, there’s something you can do to help me out.  If you know anything at all about the Bay Area, I’d quite appreciate recommendations for any interesting Catholic groups/listservs (I’m sorry to be missing the Lenten lecture series at the Dominican House of Studies).  My parish in DC was lovely and vibrant, and I’d like to be able to meet more nerdy enthusiasts out west (who keep cracking liturgical jokes).

Also, I’d appreciate any general Berkeley recommendations (especially theatre events, lectures, etc).  I had a bigger network of people to draw on in DC than I will in my new home, so I want to know where I’ll be finding my new friends.

There will still be posts this week (though, again, it’s possible they’ll be a bit slower than usual), and, starting next week, the guest posts from the Math and Theology bookclub.


Finally, tonight is my farewell party, and my friends are all coming over to read Arcadia.  I’m very tempted to reprise the reading for my first theatre party in Berkeley, but, since I’m taking Septimus Hodge tonight, I may switch to Bernard when I arrive.

(Of course the party will include a math lesson).

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  • Scott Hebert

    I’m sure you’re excited. 🙂

    Now, if only you could have been moving to the Chicago area…. 😉

    All the best for you, and I will pray for your safety and continued success.

  • Darren


    Bay Area = Darren Jealous!

  • Mike

    Congrats! And all the best.

  • Joe

    Congratulations!!! I hear the Norbertines in the Bay Area are really great. Good luck to you I know you will do excellent!!

  • Tara S

    I want you to be a Methodology Cop. It would be like living in a small town with one of those mythically awesome Sheriffs. “Call the Shrriff! Glen Johnson’s been stealing puppies from their mammas for a Big City puppy mill!” “Look! Here comes Sheriff Leah!” “Don’t you worry little puppies. I’ll get you straight home – your mammas have been right worried.”

  • Nice! I live in the South Bay (a few minutes south of Stanford), so I don’t know too much about Berkeley, but I imagine you’d probably enjoy NPR radio’s City Arts and Lectures, which is recorded in downtown San Francisco (though tickets can be difficult to get).

    No recommendations for Catholic Churches though… sorry 🙂

  • B. Durbin

    About seventy miles too far west of me for any good knowledge on my part in regards to Catholic groups. Theatre is another matter, and if you need any recommendations that way, I can help.

    Usually I’d be able to suggest the good museums in the area, but it seems you have a good handle on those already. And in Berkeley, you’re right on top of the Lawrence Hall of Science anyway.

    • leahlibresco

      No, no, please be more specific. I’ve never been to CA for very long. I only know about the Exploratorium.

      • Laurel

        You’ll definitely love the Lawrence Hall of Science!

  • The Dominican house of studies for our province is down in Oakland, not too far from where you’ll be. (But then, you probably knew that already.)

    • leahlibresco

      I got to go there one of the Sundays I was out on my tryout.

      • St. Albert’s (the Dominican studium) is good, but not a parish. There is a Dominican parish in Berkeley, St. Mary Magdalene. St. Dominic’s in San Francisco is larger and has more resources. You’ll probably find the Graduate Theological Union interesting: they have a great theological library, and I’m sure you can wrangle borrowing privileges somehow or other.

        It’s a few years since I’ve lived in the area, but I can give more specific tips, or help make some introductions to Dominicans or GTU professors. Drop me an email if you want.

  • Congratulations, and may the moving process not be too hectic! As an education-y sort of person myself (I teach mathematics at the community college here), I have to say I approve–although the concept of a Methodology Cop sounds pretty neat…. 😉

    • Mike

      Getting paid to teach math, how cool!

    • Mike

      PS No sarcasm intended there, just really think it’s cool.

  • Camassia

    One of my favorite childhood spots, the California Academy of Sciences (which despite its name is actually a museum), got a complete overhaul about five years ago, so it’s hard for me to look at it objectively. But I have to admit some of the new features are pretty neat — they’ve terraformed the roof with native plants, and put some of their aquatic life in a “swamp habitat” where you can walk around with sharks and rays swimming underfoot. Also if you’re into exotic plants, the greenhouse in Golden Gate Park was also recently upgraded and is worth a visit.

  • I LOVE Arcadia. “Septimus, what is carnal embrace?” Best first line ever.

    • Mike

      Adding Arcadia to the list.

    • leahlibresco

      And the best second line:

      Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one’s arms around a side of beef.

  • oligopsony


    • leahlibresco

      Got it in one.

      • grok87

        Congratulations Leah and Godspeed.

      • Hmm. I hope you drag them up rather than them dragging you down.

        • Joe

          I wonder what her chances would have been if she hadn’t come out in favor of unnatural marriage.

          • Darren

            Yes, they make everyone kiss Ellen DeGeneres’s ring at the California border now, then they give you your “I Love Sodomy” bumper sticker and a complimentary glass of wheat grass juice.

      • Darren

        Man, that _is_ a dream job!

        Tell Yudkowsky we need more HPMoR!


      • Val

        Now there’s a cognitive dissonance that for once, I’d like to see explicitly resolved.

        I wonder if you’ll come across Moldbug.

  • deiseach

    Congratulations on the new job and good luck with the move!

  • sara

    St. Margaret Mary in Oakland. Just try it!

    • Lawrence King

      St. Margaret Mary has a wonderful Tridentine High Mass and a wonderful Novus Ordo Latin Mass every Sunday. Oops, I guess these are called “extraordinary form” and “ordinary form” these days. They do it much more beautifully than at the cathedral here in Washington D.C.!

    • MJP

      I would also recommend this. I had to move away from the Bay Area a couple of years ago just as I was discovering Catholicism, so I only had a few opportunities to attend the Latin Mass here. I have missed it ever since. My own attachment to the Latin Mass may be idiosyncratic – I had a great appreciation of classical music and languages (not to mention various anti-modernist tendencies) before I was even a Christian, so the appeal was pretty obvious. But in any event, you should experience it at least once, especially a service with music.

  • Hanan

    Berkeley? Was that a typo and you really meant Los Angeles?

  • Magdalen

    You’re just missing the off-b’way Passion revival, what a pity!

  • Lawrence King

    The Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology in Berkeley is the west coast counterpart to the DHS. They probably have a higher proportion of lay students to seminarians than the DHS. And they have a different flavor, because the DHS is in the same building as the seminarians’ residence, whereas the DSPT is a few miles from where the Dominicans’ priory in Oakland. But if you found the DHS interesting, you should definitely check out the DSPT!

  • Arizona Mike

    The California Academy of Sciences is definitely a must-see, especially the multi-level rainforest. Plus, an albino crocodile and a Foucalt’s Pendulum!

  • I’ll just re-iterate the above commenters that the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) is a great place with lots of interesting people to meet (they just had a great conference on natural law), and the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in general as well. GTU has a good science and religion discussion group too, if you are interested. Also I’ve been wanting to get the Dominicans and Less Wrong people in a debate on the nature of rationality for a long time, but, alas, I have not acted on it. Maybe now will be the time.

    As for museums, the Lawrence Hall of Science is good (though do complain to them about their “science and religion” section of the store being all atheist propaganda), the Academy of Sciences in SF is great (but expensive), the Monterey Bay Aquarium is splendid. The Exploratorium is moving to a new home, which sounds like it will be very nice.

    And don’t forget the great outdoors around here too!

  • Kelley

    I live downtown SF and a cool site that keeps me updated on the random/cheap/fun events going on in the bay area is http://sf.funcheap.com/ You’ll find yourself doing the tourist stuff when people come to visit you, so it’s fun to explore the off the beaten path stuff… and there is plenty of it.

    St. Alberts is cool. St. Dominic’s in the city is a beautiful old gothic parish… it’s my home parish.

  • A Philosopher

    The Newman Center at Dwight and College has “love it or hate it” architecture. I’m kind of a fan of the combination of post-apocalyptic concrete and the neo-Lovecraftian altar.

    The Berkeley philosophy department is super-fantastic, especially their younger cohort. Go learn about truth relativism from John Macfarlane! A nice counterpoint to Benedict’s railings on the evils of relativism.

    And the Pacific Film Archive is one of the view places in the world where you might have a chance to see George Landow’s Film in Which There Appear Edge Letterings, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc., or Wide Angle Saxon.

    • deiseach

      Sweet holy Jerusalem, A Philosopher, I thought the Taj Mahony in Los Angeles was bad. What is it about California and this mania for honking great slabs of bare grey concrete in church architecture?

      There aren’t many pictures of the Newman Center up on their webpage. I’m not sure if that’s a disadvantage or not; the gushing praise on the page about the Art and Architecture – for some strange, unknown reason, surely it couldn’t be down to the eldritch hideousness of the elements, could it? – hasn’t any photos up, but the home page does have a photo of the altar that is terrifying.

      I haven’t looked it up, but I’m nearly sure that a ceramic altar is not in line with the rubrics. Also, as a fellow-Catholic, it would be very, very wrong of me to pray for a convenient earthquake to hit, so I won’t. (But I can still hope!)

      “The building conveys a sense of the primeval, of spiritual realities that have lasted down through the ages. ”
      *looks at photos of bare concrete walls; reads this line again*
      No. No, it doesn’t convey any such thing. It looks like the multi-storey carpark in our local shopping centre, and I’ve never felt moved to prayer there (um, does the pious ejaculation “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” when someone pushing a shopping trolley steps out in front of the car count as prayer?)

      • deiseach

        You weren’t joking about the Lovecraftian ambiance, either! I quote:

        “This is augmented by the extraordinary arrangement of the four walls. Each cement wall is free-standing. Each forms a corner, no two alike in the angles created; and the walls, instead of joining, overlap so that the diagonally slanting edge of one wall stands free a few feet in front of the wall behind it; and they are thus layered around the room like bent cards balanced on edge.”

        I further quote H.P. himself:

        “It was, Johansen said, like a great barn-door; and they all felt that it was a door because of the ornate lintel, threshold, and jambs around it, though they could not decide whether it lay flat like a trap-door or slantwise like an outside cellar-door. As Wilcox would have said, the geometry of the place was all wrong. One could not be sure that the sea and the ground were horizontal, hence the relative position of everything else seemed phantasmally variable. …Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn’t have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse.”

        • Darren

          Holy carp! That must have been _some_ congregation to go with that extreme of a Brutalist esthetic!

          Hard to find pictures, these are the best I could find with a limited search:

          Outside View

          Alter (bottom of page)

          The good thing, Brutalist actually works well in CA – little rain and without the freeze-thaw cycles that tend to make them such eyesores in colder climes… Of course, some think them eyesores out of the gate…

        • A Philosopher

          Here is a decent picture of the altar and environs. How can you not love it?

          • Martha

            That altar cannot be in accord with the rubrics. I bet you any money.

            In the times of the Penal Laws in Ireland, priests had to say Mass on rocks in fields or up mountains, and they still looked better than that creation.

          • Dave

            Wow, looking at that makes me think that Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc are doing cartwheels in their graves.

    • “post-apocalyptic concrete and the neo-Lovecraftian altar”
      Wow. Those descriptions are so… apt. I’ve been there several times and never been able to describe it so well. You’ve nailed it.

      • deiseach

        Yes, it does look very Esoteric Order of Dagon, doesn’t it? 🙂

  • TheresaL

    I live in San Mateo (between SF and San Jose) but often visit friends and family in Berkeley and used to live in San Francisco. It’s wonderful out here!
    Look into http://calperformances.org/ for very local theater and https://www.shnsf.com/online/ for broadway style stuff in SF. The American Conservatory Theater in SF traditionally performs A Christmas Carol in December and other shows throughout the year.
    You’ll surely enjoy the Maker Faire, which is down here in San Mateo. Expect massive crowds.
    If you are in the mood to don a costume the Dickens Christmas Faire is fun but overpriced, so I’m glad to have gone once but probably wouldn’t go again for several years.
    At some point you should have a special dinner at Chez Panisse. Plan to reserve far in advance.
    Other recommended food in Berkeley: Zachary’s Pizza, Ici on College for ice cream, Vick’s for Indian food, T-Rex and Smokey J’s for barbeque, Triple Rock for Burgers, La Note for an outdoor french breakfast or lunch.
    It’s Episcopalian, not Catholic, but San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral is lovely. They have concerts and other performances there sometimes, which is a great way to appreciate it. Everyone talks up St. Dominic’s in the city, especially for the music and children’s programs, but I haven’t been there myself. I rather liked tiny St. John of God in the Sunset District of San Francisco, although sometimes I found it too liberal, and I’m a fairly liberal person.
    As someone already mentioned, the Dominican School in Berkeley often has lectures on a variety of philosophy and theology topics.

  • TheresaL

    I forgot to mention that the C.S. Lewis Society of California meets in Oakland! http://www.lewissociety.org/index.php
    And I’m hoping to make it to this: http://www.theworldoftolkien.com/

  • Bill M.

    As a former resident of SF and Berkeley:

    1. DSPT in Berkeley
    2. St Mary Magdalene in Berkeley
    3. Our Lady of Fatima Russian Catholic Church in SF
    4. Cristo Rey Carmelite monastery, across the street from USF. It’s a jewel; there’s a baldacchino, and the voices of the sisters behind the grille, most from Mexico, are heavenly.


  • jenesaispas

    “Posts have been a little scarce on the ground here, because I’m in the middle of prepping to change jobs and change coasts.”

    That’s okay, I’m not being very diligent at reading them- I’m kind of ill 🙁

    In other news the Pope has resigned! 😮

  • Bob

    Good luck with the move and congratulations on the job! Hope it works out for you.

  • Kristin

    Good luck with the move and the new job!
    Can I hope for a YouTube video of a LL-organized flash mob on the BART of “Once More, With Feeling”?

  • Bruno

    The Camaldolese have a bit of a presence at Berkeley, or at least they used to. If you really want to get away from it all, they have a monastery on 900 acres of ocean front property in the Big Sur area.