13 June 2015

This Post is Very Meta...

A couple of years ago I was taking a real look at my social media self.  Bringing back this tag to Roman Numeral J reminds me of my recent Facebook post about same date nostalgia

When I was a kid I had a page-a-day sports calendar.  For that reason I know that Jay Hilgenberg shares my birthday, March 21st.  The date on which things happen is important to us (anniversaries, birthdays, deathdays) and being able to mark just how long ago a specific thing occurred helps comprehend the passage of time.  This understanding, I think, can help calibrate our intentions - that is, understanding that you are now, say, 37, and that you were 28 - or maybe 19 - and had many of the same ideas, aspirations, or hopesdreams, and that there may be specific actions that need to be taken.

The link between memorial and memory is something I've written about (sorry, no link at present - not sure where that is).  Facebook's new On This Day feature is symptomatic of our desire to memorialize our lives.  However, Facebook's new version is imperfect.  Today, we post instantly from our iPhones, and properly memorialize, but many of the earlier year Facebook memories I see in my feed are on the wrong day... I didn't post my vacation photos until I actually got back from vacation (because I used to use a camera to take pictures).

I don't mean to sound like an old coot.  But I think the medium of social media is not built for memorialization, but they try...

I'll think this through, and remember it fondly.  I think I'll tweet out a link to the post to try to keep the conversation going...

15 February 2015

Of the Beginning...

Well, this is surprising: Mes. Ahmed Farag Ali and Saury Das have mathematically done away with the necessity for the Big Bang
Source: www.fromquarktoquasars.com

My understanding is, of course, inexpert, but wildly interested.  (I do have my own working theory of the universe that I formulated in the Fall of 1999, as I was taking my Intro to Astronomy class at Luther College.  That theory remains as yet, un-disproven!).

The essential problem of modern physics has been that we had a theory called gravity (just wait until Creationists and Climate Change Deniers learn that gravity is a theory!), which works fairly well in most day-to-day situations. 

As we start to think about big things (galaxies and stars in various points in their life cycles and stuff like that), gravity stops being true a lot of the time (one example of this is explained by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity).  Also, when you start to look at very small things (sub-atomic particles like quarks, Higgs-Boson particles, protons, etc.) gravity also stops being true (which we call Quantum Mechanics).  The problem we run into is that gravity turns out to be false in very different ways with regard to the big and small stuff.

One way that we accounted for these big/little discrepancies was to theorize a singularity at the beginning of time - the Big Bang (not to be confuse with the Bing Bag, a magical vessel that emits anything from crooning melodies to doddering background vocals in a David Bowie Christmas carol when you reach into it).  I'm not quite sure as to why we thought the Big Bang was mathematically necessary (would appreciate some guidance in this area, and am trying to read up on it to better understand).

But now, we have a mathematically plausible universe that doesn't start in some spectacular explosion, before which we could have no understanding or make any predictions.  Instead, it may now be the case that the universe has simply always been. 

I'm not entirely sure yet how this new revelation, if in fact true, changes my sense of the everything.  At the very least, it would expand on the fictional Mark Twain's sentiment from the ST:TNG speech, where he bemoans a universe with only human existence on earth, a "waste of space" - if this finding holds true (at least for the time being), it seems our unique human existence would also now be a waste of time as well.

07 February 2015

Double Feature Challenge!

I'd like to issue the first ever Roman Numeral J Double Feature Challenge. 

The concept occurred to me yesterday evening as I was waiting for the bus, checking my long-lost Facebook news feed.  Jeff had posted a link to a movie imagining of moving through our solar system at light speed called "Riding Light" (by way of Huff Po).

I watched the first 10 minutes or so, loving it (though perhaps not the soundtrack), but it reminded me of something. 

Of course (once you've watched a bit of "Riding Light"), I was thinking of Michael Snow's 1967 Wavelength, which would make an excellent companion piece.  I'm not sure of the preferred order, and would accept suggestions and also highly recommend trying a side-by-side comparison.


22 November 2014

Elven Intellectualism

Re-watching The Desolation of Smaug and the elven torture scene got me thinking about Elven Intellectualism. 

The idea of alignment in D&D is fairly straightforward:
Source: http://throughThePrism.blogspot.com
  • You are either good, evil, or neutral.
  • That orientation, is determined by one of three worldviews: Law & Order (lawful); Good & Evil (chaotic); Libertarian (neutral)

The whole system is easily systematized and graphed (see right), and play follows general rules proscribed by the logic of this system.  Players generally play good (or perhaps neutral) characters, so wanton slaughter of innocents is reserved (again generally) for the monsters, and quests to save personages of historical significance, or more often to enrich PCs personally, are undertaken.

Others, and in particular Degolar, from whom I swiped this rendition of the chart, have put more thought into the concept and viability of alignment theory for socio-philosophic application.  Just search "Alignment Matrix D&D" on google image search, at the poster meme of applying alignment to fiction and real world environs is readily apparent.

I want to think instead about the historicity of alignment.  Namely, how good and evil (and law and chaos) might be affected by the passage of time. 

If you're a person who is capable of (or perhaps it's fairer to say 'in the habit of') thinking historically, or if you're an elf, who has lived through centuries and millennia, and passed time has warped notions of good and evil, law and chaos: what then might alignment mean to you individually, and socially?

Note: this is a work in progress, and will be continued (and perhaps even concluded!), but I wanted to get the thinking out their in its nascent form for consideration...

02 November 2014

Vote Happy

Election Day will soon be upon us, once again.  Milwaukee has a Socialist running for Sheriff (she seems really lovely, smart, and on the right side of history!), and a Green Party candidate for State Treasurer (and in September, his numbers were pretty okay!).

In this sad/silly era of bought & sold candidates, dangerous zealots (as well as more clown-ish zealots), and a political campaign and lobbying system that encourages corruption, a progressive looking for genuine reform options often doesn't know which way to turn.  Of course, Democrats being in charge of things is less bad than Republicans.  So, the sensible choice seems to vote for Democrats in close races, and vote more radically (Greens, Socialists, liberal Independents) when it's expedient.  The fear-mongering lessons of Ralph Nader loom large, despite the fact that they're misguided.

Nationally, there are a lot of interesting races.  That said, the US House is guaranteed to remain in Republican hands, despite the fact that more people will probably end up voting for Democrats.  Thank you gerrymandering.

Unfortunately, the same reason can't be given for why the Senate seems poised to fall into Republican hands as well.  Though it would be awesome, wouldn't it?  To re-draw the state lines to re-organize people into more culturally appropriate regions? 

  • East and West Dakota - East Dakota would be a 40 or so mile wide strip surrounding the I-29 corridor, stretching from Grand Forks all the way down to Kansas City (anything north of GF we can give to Canada).
  • Up North - the northern part of Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with the UP.
    Source: www.pastemagazine.com
  • The Middle Bit - a utopic plot of mostly rural farmland, focusing primarily on the biography of me, including Clinton, Wisconsin, stretching up north to Madison, then over to Decorah, Iowa, then up to Minneapolis.  It looks a bit like those Tetris pieces that go down one, over one, down one again (see picture, except the other one, and turned vertically).
  • Austin, Texas - Austin, Texas.
  • Yellowstone - Just a really cool state to visit.  First bear governor.
  • Iraq - I know we're mostly moved out, but it's time to start colonizing, people.

The State of Wisconsin has a useful resource for figuring out what all is going to be on your ballot

At the top of the ballot, of course, is the Mary Burke / Scott Walker race for Governor.  This one will come down to turnout, and while I'm not overly excited about Mary Burke, she's the choice.

Down the ballot a ways is our rootin'-tootin' Sheriff Clarke, running against Angela Walker.  It seems the last time the Journal Sentinel deigned to mention her in an article was August 8th, when Chris Moews was being backed against the gun-loving sheriff by Michael Bloomberg. 

14 September 2014

Thoughtless Chess

This afternoon, I invented a new game, "Thoughtless Chess".  You probably own this game already, though you may not have realized it.  The game is played on a standard chess board, with the standard chess pieces, and the pieces move exactly like they do in the normal game.

The difference, is the player.  The rules of Thoughtless Chess are few:

Source: theliftedbrow.com
  1. Of utmost importance is to realize that the object of Thoughtless Chess is not to win (nor to lose).  The object is to let the game unfold as it will, and see what happens.  There is an infinite number of possibilities for a game of chess - the goal of Thoughtless Chess is to create a random, human-generated chess match (though don't intentionally be random - see rule #2)
  2. You must make your move in a very short amount of time; and you are not permitted to plan or strategize your move (or future moves).
    • Patterns are permitted ("I feel like annihilating all of the pawns", or "I wonder how long I can go without taking a piece", etc.); any such patterns, which seem to be amounting toward a larger strategy should be called out, by any player or observer.  If that person can articulate the strategy being enacted, the player who is carrying out should desist, and will be shunned with pursed lips and shaken heads.
  3. While moves should not take time to plan, the players should be mindful of legal moves later in the game.  A player in check must make a move to get out of check.  After an initial check and un-check, however, a follow-up check is no more likely than any other eventuality (at least theoretically).
Chess theory is a long, proud tradition - The Lifted Brow published the image above as part of a lengthy investigation of the chess scene in Blade Runner (I know, you're probably saying, like I was, what chess scene in Blade Runner).  Poorly written villains use chess as a metaphor for the game of life (at least the sort of life where there is royalty and expendable little people).

Chess is a beautiful, noble game.  Players furrow their brows and stroke their chins to show how deeply they are considering their options.  Thoughtless Chess is an opportunity to experience the game itself, without the pesky mind games.

30 August 2014

Lake Express

Riding on the Lake Express Ferry for the first time.  We’ve just left behind the last of the birds doing the “Boat Challenge”, which I assume is a contest which consists of a dare to outrace the ferry for as long as possible.  Once the Lake Express gets up to its full cruising speed, it’s passing even the fastest moving birds like they’re standing still… except they’re flying parallel to the ship.

The Wisconsin coastline is still very visible, and Michigan, up ahead, is still just a vague notion.  At the mid-point, I’ll show you what both coasts look like.
It’s an odd blend of people on the ferry this morning.  There is a palpable sense of adventure to many of the groups.  It’s difficult to pin down any generalizations about the socio-economic status of Lake Express-ers.  Even more difficult to figure out is any kind of cultural mean.  There are a couple of foreigners, several “older couples”, a smattering of little kids with a parent or two, and a biker couple.  There are several people dressed like drifters, and an inordinate number of people wearing bright neon, which makes me constantly mistake them for crew members.  I can’t figure why they chose such bright attire, whether it’s their norm, or they felt it was befitting the water voyage.
The terminal, naturally, has the ooky borderland feel that almost any kind of station has.  A multitude of ennui from the people waiting, coupled with the dense feeling of mass anticipation, makes any transit hub a jumble of weighty unpleasant-ness.  Airports are particularly interesting examples of this, because the ‘average’ passenger is so much more bourgeois.  You expect a certain amount (that amount being large) of heavy despair when you’re at a bus station, but when you’re at an airport, it doesn’t seem quite as ‘natural’.  That sense of despair and foreboding is foreign for most passengers preparing to fly, and they don’t like it, and they don’t know where it’s coming from.
Now that we’re en route, though, things are looking up.  The side to side* canting of the boat aside (I’m riding up top), the ominous feel of the terminal is left behind, and the anticipation of arrival has captured the collective imagination of the passengers.  The air up here is heavy with humidity, but feels good, in conjunction with steady wind, and the forthcoming sunshine from Michigan (as you can see, the sun has long since risen, but not above the cloud-line quite yet) gives the trip a sense of hope.

* As I typed “side-to-side”, I tried to cast back to my nautical terminology, but only came up with port and starboard (which I think is back and left – a la JFK)… I then looked at the bottom of my shoe, because one of my pairs of shoes (boat shoes, natch) has the labels for all 4 directions of boating terminology (I think a third is aft – I can’t discover the fourth yet).