Writing: August 2006 Archives

Creative Goals

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  • Taking 12 credits this semester, rather than my typical 15-20. Sensible. Sane.
  • Teaching two sections of lab. Still sane.
  • Was not hired for the position at the new Apple retail store in town.
Given that my schedule this semester has stabilized into something eminently sane, I should actually have some decompression time. So, I have a few goals for this semester:
  • School: Finish those labs from last semester. For real. All the way.
  • Design: Get the blog redesign project I started done. All the way. It's really mostly done - I just need to convert to templates and make a few more decisions about how to display archives.
  • Photo: Take 100 photos per week. I have a camera which it is reasonable to carry around (the Casio EX-S600EO) with a freaking 2GB SD card; I no longer have any excuse not to go crazy with the taking of pictures.
  • Photo: Enter at least one contest at DPChallenge per month. (Why not use that for inspiration?)
  • Video: Get approved as a video stock contributor at iStockPhoto.
  • Writing: Write a substantial piece of short fiction. I'm not talking about serious "literary fiction" - I'm not even sure I know what that means, actually - I just mean something longer than the look-at-me-we-all-have-ADHD flash fiction I can bang out in a single sitting. A plot would be good. Characters required. I'm thinking 3,000-5,000 words. (I just know that if I can get one done, I'll have loosened up the knotty problem of how to turn my ideas into words.)
  • Music: Finish one of the songs I have started. I've got about six sitting around, each with about half of the lyrics written, an idea of the melody line for those lyrics... then nothing.
I think the overall idea here is very much like throwing spaghetti at a wall; I want to see what sticks. I do a lot of disparate stuff, and seeing what holds my attention when I genuinely have time for it seems like a good idea. ...and then there's the lab thing, which I threw in there as my own personal guilt-trip. Any thoughts? Things I've mentioned to you or that you (knowing me like you do) think I want to be doing this semester that I've left out? Comment!

Open Letters

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Dear Apple, I love my iPod. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. ...okay, maybe I did. The larger screen is love. Color? Even better. The software for viewing contacts and calendars is much improved. Request: please have a discussion with the person who decided it would be ok to make the middle button completely flat. I am now not only missing a piece of tactile feedback concerning where my finger is on the device, but it is difficult for me to press the button without jogging the touch-wheel. I have moderate-length nails which cause me no difficulty when I type, nor with the multitude of tiny buttons on the other electronics I own. They shouldn't cause problems with the iPod, either. xoxo


Dear Apple, I would very much like to have the iMac I ordered. I understand that you are v. busy and that this product is very popular, however, I would like to note that telling me that my product is going to ship late - and up to two weeks late, at that - the day after it was supposed to ship... well, let's just say I've made that sort of mistake before, and it didn't work out well. Don't worry - I still love you. <3


Dear Casio, Manual appears to be missing from box. Received something manual-like, but only four of the pages are in English; remainder appears to be repeated text in several other languages. Will admit interface is fairly easy to pick up, but you know how methodical physics is making me. Where are the equations? ^_^ P.S. Camera so pretty! Very thin! Must be staying away from the twinkies. Appears to have adopted my wardrobe.


Dear UNO, Some of your computer lab rules appear to be unenforceable; others, not in line with your practices. For an example of the former, see the "offending, intimidating or harassing others is not allowed" rule. There are several people sitting within earshot who could potentially be offending me if I got offended by things like obnoxious laughs, clothing with religiously significant symbols, or the fact that anyone is actually looking for pictures of Lil Jon in a fashion that is not intended to be ironi-- wait, that does offend me. The guy next to me is seriously built, and would intimidate anyone except (perhaps) my sister. I would recommend retooling the language on your signs to be more meaningful. For the latter, look no further than your rule against attaching peripherals, when you have pulled USB extension cables through the holes on the desk explicitly for the purpose of making the attachment of peripherals easier. Perhaps these rules predate the addition of said cables. In this case, I recommend what is called a "revision". That's where you change content that is no longer correct. Helpfully yours, Erica
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 from All Write Already. Also, credit is owed to Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe for a good deal of the visualization/metaphor for the physics bits.)
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