Monday, June 29, 2009

Laying Down The Fourth-Dimensional Real-Vector Mack

Minkowski described a special form of geometric space that lent itself easily to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, being a space defined by four mutually orthoganal vectors (e0, e1, e2, e3) such that −(e0)2 = (e1)2 = (e2)2 = (e3)2 = 1.  It is a pseudo-Euclidian space that also accounts for time as a fourth dimension.

This is all, as you can well imagine, a pain in the ass to anyone who isn't a Lithuanian mathematician, or at the very least mildly engaged in some nonrelative physics now and again; it does, however, conjure a couple of immediate puns and a bit of semantic chicanery here and there, so it is infinitely useful for my regular purposes.

Take for example the concept of the learning curve.  I've always seen that plotted in two dimensions (measure of performance vs. number of attempts), giving no thought to the geometric concept of torsion on a curve that exists in Euclidian space.  It is unfathomable in that model, apparently, that in addition to moving up that curvature from a slow beginning to an accelerated learning state before gently curving back to a plateau, that the line might deviate from true on some Z-axis (like whether or not the learner actually gives a shit about the subject).  This is exactly the kind of tragic, incomplete analogy that occurs when psych majors appropriate slang from physicists.

To continue, let's add a 4th dimension of time to our model; I would suggest that the number of attempts is often interpreted as a timeline, but strictly speaking that isn't true.  Think of it like picking up strangers in a bar; sometimes "Nice shoes..." works on the first chick, and sometimes you end up telling eight people a twenty-minute story about how your dog died and you need to be held.  Number of attempts is in no way synonymous with time invested.

I propose the influence of the Z-axis (everything orthoganal to the learning process) and the number of attemps within a given space both impact the learning curve, and if the activity of learning is assumed to be utterly unrelated to all other activities and the iterations of learning attempts are spaced irregularly or inadequately, the 2-dimensional model doesn't plot anything meaningful.

It's also worth noting that the unrelated fractal known as Minkowski's Curve is also called Minkowski's Sausage, and that somewhere there is undoubtedly a cognitive psych / discrete mathematics double major that will respond well to that veiled reference if you buy them a beer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Modern Primitive in Flux

There is something mildly perverse about blogging during a power outage.

During my formative years I had the good fortune of experiencing abject poverty, and the amazing fortune of only enduring it briefly; due to the perfect storm of both generic single parent misfortunes plus the very specific effects of a serious car accident on said sole provider, things got a little touch and go for a couple of years. Sometimes people slip through the cracks; usually they never crawl back out again, so I'm grateful for the experience because I wasn't unlucky enough to get trapped in it.

It does, however, fuck with my perspective. I was a cub scout at the time, so spending a winter without heat followed by a spring without power and a summer without air conditioning was essentially just an extended camping trip that didn't involve going anywhere. Making due for food was a little like foraging, so thanks to an imaginative guardian and an early inclination for roughing it we got on just fine for over two years where we didn't have electricity, hot water, or temperature control at the same time at any point. We lived right across the street from a vast tract of unclaimed, unpopulated land, and there were things slower than an eight year old that wound up being fairly tasty upon further inquiry.

And now, I am having difficulty reconciling those memories with my present predicament. I am sitting on my couch blogging in the dark, and my wife is shopping online and watching streaming television because even though the power is out, I have a 3G router combo and a house full of laptops, and somewhere in the back of my brain I am wondering what the fuck to do when all of that shit that I can't recharge in this condition begins to go dark.

What then? Physical books? Stories by candle-light? Retire early?

It occurs to me that there are rabbits in my neighborhood, and I probably have a sharp stick somewhere.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

لدي زوجة

One year has passed, and yet the moment itself seems to occupy the entirety of that timeline. Sure, the rest of life keeps transpiring, with all the ups and downs one would expect, but fundamentally I still feel the same way about my wife as I did the day I said my vows, so in a weird sort of way I'm still in that moment as much as I am in this one. Sometimes kissing her strikes me as a continuation of that first married kiss in addition to being a discrete event unto itself. I suppose that must either be a sign of our enduring, storybook love, or possibly some indicator that I am trapped in an existential paradox and unable to segregate retrospective memories from prospective memories due to my persistent simultaneous existence in two time periods.

I've noticed (wioll haven notice) that settling into married life has just refined the relationship instead of altering it grossly. The same exact irritations occur (willan have occurren) but we have learned to deal with them a little differently (haven on-dealt witha learnfor get the idea). So maybe the essential secret to marital bliss is a combination of framing your experience like a time traveller
(1) and cultivating selective hearing.

(1) With thanks to Douglas Adams, who prepared me for the curious grammar and the general absurdity of life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Amaranthine Arduousity

When I was a kid, video games were hard, but they were largely formulaic and short (all the better to entice another quarter out of the player). Over time, difficulty waxed and waned with length, story, graphic and sound qualities, and other factors, until the industry grew to expect games with budgets higher than Michael Bay films that took five years to develop. The end result is that once in a while I pick up a fantastic game that only has a single, terrible flaw: the fucker just never ends. I'm not talking about pure sandbox games...those get boring and I quit eventually, maybe to pick them back up again in a few months. I'm talking about 100+ hours of core gameplay, characters who appeal to my emotions, and sidequests upon sidequests upon sidequests of shit to collect, kill, or sleep with.

Fuck the grue; it is dark, and I am very likely to be eaten by the couch.