Monday, August 28, 2006
Topics, Topics Everywhere, and... hmmm.
You know what?

I got nothing.
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/28/2006 01:25:00 AM :: 1 comments
Friday, August 18, 2006
Oh, I'm going to post, all right.
This is going to be the best post you ever read. It's going to make your heart skip a beat. No, it's going to make your heart skip two beats. No, five! Twelve! It's going to make you cry. It's going to make you laugh. It's going to make you beg for more. This post will be the highest-grossing blockbuster post of the summer. It will be awesome, tubular and radical. It will be happy to validate your parking. This post will only have one glass of wine with dinner and never drink to excess. It will diligently work out every day of the week. This post will scratch the places you can't reach, if you ask it nicely. It will make your father love you more and make your mother approve of your spouse. It will pay off your student loan debt. This post will be rated FDA pregnancy category B and not be expected to be harmful to an unborn baby, but you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during the reading of this post. Though other broadcasters in your area will still need to conduct a test of the emergency broadcast system, this post will be exempt because of its awesomeness, so you will not have to hear the attention signal unless there is an actual emergency. When threatened, this post will expand in size, and exude a soporific substance that will allow it to escape from predators. This post will be able to recite pi to at least 400 places, from memory. It's going to become the next president of the United States. It will be a good source of fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. This post will read every book by every author, and compile a list of the ones you'd like, color coding them by genre. This post will raise the dead and turn them into foot soldiers in its unholy army, which it will mobilize against any enemy you choose. This post will stay crunchy in milk. This post will shoot lasers from its eyes that will reduce its targets to smoking ruins. This post will be made of the highest quality chocolates imported from Belgium. This post will use its political clout to

[This post has been truncated]
Posted by Jess at 8/18/2006 11:16:00 AM :: 1 comments
Ssss.ss.sssSomething for the topic.
When not just any topic will satisfy, turn to... Hype.
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/18/2006 09:03:00 AM :: 0 comments
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Lake Keowee
A fine vase built here
Of earth and stone and science
to hold fish and ghosts
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/13/2006 12:24:00 AM :: 0 comments
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Getting to be afternoon, so...
Here's a little topic-love for your rear:

porcelain

Posted by Erica at 8/10/2006 01:38:00 PM :: 0 comments
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The moment of beauty.
Most people are completely wrong. (This should not surprise anyone, really.) I was wrong until this most recent epiphany. I, like many others, though that Beauty was a trait, an adjective, a quality inherent to an object.

I don't think I've ever been so utterly convinced of something that was totally wrong as I was of this.

Beauty isn't a quality, it's an event; A fleeting one, at that. Usually it lasts no more than a few seconds, and that's if it lasts an entire second. In my experience it's a flashpoint thing, especially when it happens in people.

It's the sunrise blossoming out over the lake while you crusie along at ten knots. It's the lurch away from gravity, with the ground falling away below you. It's the glint in her eyes as she looks back over a bare shoulder at you, a mischeif of one sort or another loosed from her lips. It's the light framing her face just-so. It's the moment lips touch.

We talk about Beauty like it's something a person can develop in themselves. Actually, that's just aesthetics, attractiveness, and such like that. Beauty, you see, isn't her figure - it's the instant you see it, from just the right angle, in just the right light, with just the right context. So much has to align perfectly to make it so - but it happens time and again. Interestingly, love catalyzes it very effectively.

It's said of us that when we are in love, we pay more attention to the object thereof. Certainly this seems to be true, in my experience. But the side effect is that when we pay more attention to something, we see more of the moments of beauty that happen to/by/around that something.

I have recently experienced several of these moments; Many, many more than I experienced in the past few years. I realize part of what has been missing in my life was the experience of this force of inspiration and change. I need more of it, and so I need more of the things that I love to be in my life.

The good thing about knowing what you want and/or need, is that it becomes much easier to reach for it...
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/09/2006 10:01:00 AM :: 1 comments
Gravity and the Beauty of Being Human
Visualize a sheet made of rubber, stretched tightly in all directions - flat, smooth, essentially featureless.

Now imagine a heavy sphere, like a marble, placed on the sheet. Imagine the smooth, uniform, gradual depression in the sheet, the gentle curve in the material.

Juggling this set of images, now add another: another marble, shooting across the surface of the sheet, leaving its own impression on the surface as it moves across. See in your mind this second sphere roll close to the first - just glancing off the very edge of the transformed sheet.

Replay this in your head, sending the second marble closer and closer to the first, until the second marble can no longer escape the impression of the first, instead finding a circular path about the first.

If in your head, you can conceptually extrapolate this image into three dimensions, you will have a vague picture of our current understanding of gravity; the marbles are massive bodies, like stars and planets, and the sheet is a two-dimensional slice of space-time. Gravity, as we understand it, is a distortion in space-time caused by these massive bodies.

A conceptual framework like this is not necessarily a practical or necessary framework for everyday use, though. Einstein's elegant space-time distortion is still taught years after students learn the Newtonian model, because while Newton's model has the fundamental failing that it says nothing about what gravity actually is, it does give a simple mathematical framework for calculating the effects two bodies will have on each other as they pass. The formula essentially says that the magnitude of the gravitational force between two objects is proportional to the mass of both objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance they are from each other.

The effect is a function of two quantities - the masses - and distance.

Both models of gravity tell us that two masses at a sufficient distance from each other will have essentially no effect on each other. They have very little way, even supposing a sudden dose of sentience, of determining that the other even exists. The events required to make these two bodies aware of each other are simple, straightforward, and yet desperately unlikely. The two masses must simply travel close enough to each other to move through the other's sphere of distortion, or sphere of influence.

For an orbit to exist, the two must travel close enough for one to become trapped in the circling path about the other.

For an orbit to be broken, some external force, strong enough to overcome the distortion, the mutual attraction, must push one object at an appropriate angle, such that it is not simply immediately recaught in a circular path about the first.

And if that should happen, freely moving through essentially empty space, the two semi-sentient objects should eventually move out of range such that they are essentially where they began - without knowing that the other truly exists; out of influence range, out of touch.

Think about that for a moment.

Every single day that we make a phone call, or jump on one of these magic internet boxes, or watch a television show from the other side of the world, we violate in a limited, human way one of the most elegant laws of the universe. When we write a letter, we confirm the continued existence of our mass with one a thousand time smaller than ours.

To be human is to have incredible power; the simple facts of our memory and indomitable will allow us to continuously confirm that which we have seen - that which has frightened us, that which inspires us, that which we reject, and most importantly, that which we love.

Distance does not equal absence.

(Cross-posted to my blog, Sperari. Also, credit is owed to Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe for a good deal of the visualization/metaphor for the physics bits.)
Posted by Erica at 8/09/2006 02:51:00 AM :: 2 comments
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Topic for Wednesday, because where I am, it IS wednesday!
Because it's what I feel like writing about, having had an epiphany on the matter...

Beauty.
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/08/2006 11:56:00 PM :: 0 comments
Friday, August 04, 2006
Music in the blood.
My addiction to music snuck up on me, as most addictions do. I didn't first start using music as a performance-enhancing agent until about the sixth grade, but once I did it once - I almost never looked back. In fact, it wasn't until the advent of real in-game music that I'd even consider playing video games without music. And it wasn't until the necessity of voice communication with other players that I'd actually largely abandon it.

There was an old game, available on the macintosh, back in the early 90s and late 80s called 'Spectre.' Actually, I didn't play Spectre, I played Spectre Supreme. Spectre Supreme had some serious badassness going on, especially in light of its competition in the first-person realm being largely games like Doom and Castle Wolfenstein. While not 3D, Spectre's graphics were uniquely spartan and simple, which let them have this sense of purity and let you focus on the action at hand. The gameplay was second to none. You drove a tank, you shot other tanks, sometimes you had a host of special weapons, but you never stopped using that basic gun. (Most of the backup weapons were kind of dumb, in my book. I only really ever used smart missiles, occasionally grenades, and once in a while the spreadshot when enemies got insanely numerous.

I was good at this game. I could make level 20ish without breaking a sweat, I could manage my ammo ilke a pro, and I knew how to exploit every maneuver I could to maximum efficacy. My friends would watch me play this game to learn how to play it better. Given my obsession with excellence, this pleased me.

Then I donned a pair of headphones, and started an audio CD in the CD-ROM drive (they were new at the time, and in fact you had to load the CD into this cassette and then put the cassette into the drive - it made the characteristic Mac sound when it ejected the cassette too). To my surprise it played automatically, despite the fact that I was running a program that had audio. The audio overlapped instead of fighting for playtime on the speaker and this too was new to me. (Multifinder was new to me as well since my previous computer experience was a Mac 512kE, with system 4.0 that couldn't run more than standard Finder.)

Anyway, I knew something was up when the first chords of "Train of Consequences" by Megadeth started up. I mean, that whole disc wasn't new to me, I was you're average 7th grade metal head geek (which meant I owned Megadeth's Euthanasia instead of just owning Metallica's black album) but this time the combination of Spectre's simplified graphics, frantic gameplay, and the pulse-thumping that was now taking over really got to me. By the time I was done with that session, an hour had gone by without so much as a 'whoopsie dasiy.' My ears ached from the poor fit of the headphones, and they were covered in sweat... my ears... sweaty... from exertion while being covered by the leather rims of the 'phones. This was utterly new. Beyond listening to music, this was immersion in it.

I made level 10 without getting hit. I made level 25 without running out of ammo or getting below half health even once. I didn't die the first time until level 29. I broke my personal best of level 32 with a life to spare. My new record was level 45. (To this day I don't know how many levels Spectre actually had. 45 was GNARLY.)

There was just something about the way the music got inside me. You'd think it was a distraction, all that noise, those lyrics to follow (which I actually didn't even really notice. Mustane might as well have been gargling at me with marbles in his mouth for all I would have cared)... it just didn't distract me. Every moment of the game became a single experience mashed together in a blur. I was on fire in ways I doubt I could express even if I tried. From then on, I didn't game without music onboard, not when timing and confidence mattered. Game soundtracks, as they became more complex and started using actual musicians and composers (all hail Nobuo Uematsu!) stopped me from needing my own additions, but even today I've been known to log onto a counterstrike server, turn off teamchat, and just go bonkers with music blaring. Sure, I lose the teamwork advantage, but an episode of being a one-man fragmachine sure feels good from time to time.

There is a bit of that purity that is lost in video games today, an ambiance that music provided when it drowned out the rest of the world... but I still feel the performance enhancing dose of music. I just feel it in the car now, on the stereo when I play music that has all the right melodies. It's dangerous, I'm sure. If my performance flags in video games, I lose a life, perhaps I have to start over. If it flags while behind the wheel of a car... there is no reset button. But I'll be damned if there aren't times I feel absolutely invincible if the right music happens along.

Someday I'd love to try it, just race along however I please with the music in my blood. Maybe I'm just a typical macho guy, craving a moment on the edge - but it is the sexiest, most satisfying feeling in the world to be in that moment; Perhaps to BE that moment.

All I need is a good stereo.
Posted by William C. Walker at 8/04/2006 12:27:00 PM :: 0 comments