Archive for May, 2006

Firefox Tip #1

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

A cool thing in Firefox that I figured out not too long ago:

  • Ctrl-R refreshes
  • F5 refreshes
  • Ctrl-Shift-R clears the entire cache and refreshes
  • Ctrl-F5 clears only the cache of that page (and images, etc. on it) and refreshes.

Hope someone finds this useful.

A Truck Driver’s Gear Change at the All-State Music Festival

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Yesterday I went to the Vermont All-State Music Festival, which is where the best highschool musicians in the state all get together and play songs. I watched the Band, the Orchestra, and the Choir, which is everyone who was performing that day (Jazz Band was Friday).

The location wasn’t all that great. It was a high school gym that was rather small to begin with, and when you take out stage space, a lot of people had to fit into a very small area. The floor was filled with chairs, and the bleachers (one side, plus second floor, plus small on the other side) were full, and they weren’t even facing the right way. There was a very tight bottleneck to get in and out. There were only two bathrooms, both rather small, and both always full of performers changing (at least between performances) since the small stage meant only one group could be out at a time and the others couldn’t stay in their seats to listen.

Perhaps I’m just comparing that to last year, though, which is the only other one I’ve been to. My town hosted that one, and it was held in various nice places around the town with the band, orchestra, and choir held in a hockey rink that randomly happened, by the word of one of the conductors who had conducted there, to have as good acoustics as Carnagie Hall. (As well as, of course, a lot more room, which is good since we’re in the middle of the state and so drew a lot more people.)

I sat, as last year, in the very front center. This was good seating, except that the people next to me were being consistently loud enough to distract me. Turning program pages, digital cameras that go “click” (seriously, people! Turn it off at a concert!), even talking. Even more annoyingly, it was a friend’s parents who were doing that. I talked to them between band and orchestra, though, and they stopped.

Throughout the entirety of the orchestra, I had to pee. (Not my fault, see lack of bathrooms above.)

Band and orchestra were on one ticket, choir was on another (since some parents, apparently, only want to see the one their kid’s in…). I left my coat on the chair, and went out to go to the bathroom and talk to people. The doors were still closed when I came back, and the line was huge, so I managed to sneak my way into the middle (no moral problem for me, since I already have my seat, it’s not like I’m getting a better one by cutting). And I waited until they opened the doors, and went back to my seat… and it was taken. Apparently, it had suddenly become a reserved seat between band and choir. Way to not inform me ahead of time. And by that point there weren’t any good ones left, so I went up to the balcony to sit with some friends.

Now, music.

Last year, the band was very good, the orchestra was good and the choir was amazing. The choir was so good I had to restrain myself from giving a standing ovation after the third song out of six, and said to myself “The last song better be at least that good, or I’ll be mad”–and then the last one proceeded to be even better.

This year the band was excellent (my enjoyment of it was not, see talking people above, but I’m correcting for that), the orchestra was excellent (again, my enjoyment was not, see had to pee above), and then the choir.

The first two songs were very good. The acoustics of the room and where I was sitting made some of the notes in the first song rather interesting, and there was some snickering nearby that for the first third of the song the lyrics were only “Love” repeated over and over, but it was still good and those both went away in the second song. Then the third song, following last year, was again amazing. I didn’t quite have trouble not standing like last year, but if it had been the last song I certainly would have. The fourth song was a Vietnamese folk song. Unfortunately for me, although I’m not all that experienced with asian culture I have heard just enough music to hear where the words should have been tonal but weren’t (which was, of course, basically every word). Other than that, though, it was still well sung.

The fifth song was religious. I can’t stand songs with religious lyrics.

It’s not that I hate religion in general. I don’t, except when it specifically gets in my way and I think “my life would be so much easier if religion didn’t exist”*. For the most part, I go on letting it be other people’s problem, and even acknowledge that it can sometimes be beneficial to those people. But religious music really grates on my nerves. Not because I think it’s an attempt to “convert” me–it’s usually not, and when it is it’s usually not as good and easily laughed at. The reason it gets on my nerves so much is that I just can’t enjoy it the same way. With music whose words I agree with (e.g. “peace is good”) or that aren’t relevant to me (“I love” + girl_name) I can really get caught up in it. I can close out all my other thoughts and go along with it, let my feelings soar when the music does and fall back along with it. Just like when I’m reading, or dreaming, my mind can be totally in that world. With religious music, I just can’t do that, because I just can’t feel the same way it does. Or, more accurately, I won’t feel the same way it does.

This is not a problem with music whose lyrics I can’t understand, like if they’re in another language. For me they might as well be lyricless; the expression I get from them is purely musical. One of my favorite songs, in fact, is Baba Yetu from the Civilization 4 soundtrack. It happens to be “The Lord’s Prayer” in Swahili, but I don’t understand Swahili, so the lyrics can’t affect me and I just hear the amazing music. **

But this song, of course, was in English. And while it was sung very well, I couldn’t enjoy it. When the singers started clapping, I didn’t clap along with them. When it was over, I clapped, but as an acknowledgement that they’d sung well, not because I liked it.

And then the sixth song came. And it was also religious. And I was dismayed.

And it was amazing musically. Just like last year, they’d saved the best for last, and it was more than deserving of being called best and sung to match. And it wasn’t even religious all the way through! It was obviously not intended to be so, and just what the composer considered normal. But every time I started getting caught, something would be said and I would come crashing out. And so I sat there and moped, and wished it could have been better for me.

And then, at the end of the song, a song which had been musically amazing, there was a Truck Driver’s Gear Change.

And at that point, I found that to be the funniest thing ever. And as everyone else clapped along and listened, I laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed. And luckily there was quite a lot of noise from the clapping, because even though I covered my mouth I wasn’t exactly quiet, and I drew a few stares from nearby. And then, as I laughed, I found that the lyrics were drowned out in my mind by the sheer hilarity of the situation, and I could finally hear just the music, and I could finally enjoy it.

* Technically it’s not religion getting in my way, it’s people getting in my way motivated by religion, or it’s a person’s adherence to religion getting in my way when I’m trying to get them to see something from a non-religious viewpoint.

** One of the worst things to happen to me is to have a song that I really enjoy, that I think could even be one of my favorites, and then to find out what the lyrics I hadn’t understood are and not like them. That’s happened at least once that’s sitting in my memory, with Avondale (traditional, performed by Lissa Schneckenburger).

Some questions about black holes

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

I enjoy physics, but I don’t actually know much, so I have a couple of questions:

  • As with any other two bodies, you can have two black holes orbiting around each other. The farther they are from each other, the slower they move, and the closer they are, the faster they move (right?). Would it be possible to have them so close their schwarzschild radii intersect (but their centers are not inside the other’s schwarzschild radius), or would they have to be moving too fast for that?
  • If I’m interpreting what I’m reading correctly, a black hole doesn’t have to be infinitely dense, but can instead just be a very large collection of normally-dense matter. Is this right? And if so,
    • Inside this object, some of the gravitational force would be pulling the other way, and thereby lessening the effect. At the very center, the total force would be zero, and choice in movement would be possible! Does this mean there’s a sort of “inner schwarzschild radius” as well, inside which nothing can escape beyond?
      • Could that possibly model our universe?
    • Is it possible to have non-spherical black holes? If you, say, had a very large toroidal collection of matter, could it be large enough that it formed a black hole in the shape of a torus that nothing could escape from inside, but things could pass through the hole?