Monday, August 29, 2005

Running in Waltz Time

Like Lacey, I've recently started running again. It started a few weeks ago, after some particularly fast waltzes and polkas at a Friday Night Waltz. I felt more winded then I thought I should, and I realized that I am probably just not in the same cardiovascular shape that I was back when I was running a couple miles every day. So, fueled by a healthy fear of aging and flabbiness, I went for a jog that weekend. It was thoroughly depressing how out-of-shape I was. I had to stop and walk every few minutes to catch my breath, and I was sore for two days afterwards. But after running a couple times a week for just a few weeks, I'm already much better. The last couple of times I've gone 15-20 minutes solid running without stopping, no problem. (This is maybe 1.5-2 miles, I'm not sure.) That's a very comfortable amount, so I can probably start stretching it a bit.

One of the trickiest things for me tonight, now that I can actually keep going for a decent amount of time, was reining myself in and not outpacing myself. There's this mode that I remember deliberately shifting into, at the end of one-mile runs back in high school, where I sort of just add a few extra inches to my legs and turn them loose to start to fly. It's a super fun way to end a race (though I only ever raced against myself, of course). But it's trickier when I accidentally just start doing it early on and then can't keep up my pace as well.

I also find that at my most maintainable pace, I'm running at three breaths per inhale or exhale. Left foot first for inhale, right foot for exhale. Probably about a slow rotary waltz tempo. I think the reason I like waltzing so much is that there's just something about it that's on the same wavelength as me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Stuff Shifting

Helping someone else move inspires me to get rid of a whole lot of my own junk. I very much want a room with a bare minimum of possessions right now. It's been gradually getting more full and disorganized here for a long time, and I've kind of been in denial about how much it bugs me. Time to do something about that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Missing Magic

So having finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the third time, I feel inclined to write a bit more about what I think magic is and isn't (see also my previous post on the subject for more). One of these days I'm still going to write a big, all-encompassing theory of magic, but for now it's just coming out in bits and pieces. [Spoiler warning here, but you've all had a month to read the book, so no complaining if you haven't yet.]

I feel very much as though there is something J. K. Rowling isn't telling us about magic, even within the context of her books. This usually bugs me when reading about the classes the kids take, but in HP6 one particular thing struck me regarding the Prince's Potions book.

There are spells written in the margins that the Prince apparently composed himself, as evidenced by the crossings-out and rewritings. That, of course, raises the question of how one actually goes about creating a new spell. Given that (almost?) all the spells in these books are only one or two words long, it seems unlikely that simply arranging the correct sequence of letters is all there is to it. If that were the case, it would be more like discovering new spells than creating them, which doesn't seem right. Are there a finite number of spells in the world? How did they originally get associated with their particular words? It just doesn't work.

Occasionally in Charms class, we hear of a particular wand movement that accompanies a given spell, which adds a bit more dimension to it, but the movement does not seem to be very important for spells in general, beyond simply aiming them. Wands are tools for focusing the will/concentration/etc. to create the magic, and I would be inclined to see words as the same way, especially considering all the talk of nonverbal spells in this latest book. Advanced wizards with sufficient concentration power don't need to actually speak their spells. So I'm a bit disappointed that even Dumbledore is rendered helpless when he loses his wand. I think he has more power in him than that.

Now something I did like from HP6 was the scene in the cave leading to the Horcrux. For example:
"Yes, this is the place," said Dumbledore.

"How can you tell?" Harry spoke in a whisper.

"It has known magic," said Dumbledore simply.


Twice Dumbledore walked right around the cave, touching as much of the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backward and forward over a particular spot, until finally he stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall.

"Here," he said. "We go on through here. The entrance is concealed."

Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching; but Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise.

[pg. 557-558]
I think there's something really important being hinted at here. Dumbledore's magic is qualitatively different from Harry's, and from most of the magic we get to see in these books. Magic is something he is, not just something he does. He feels it and senses it and interacts with it directly.

And so I'm kind of worried about Harry. Most of what he's getting in school are magic words, and potion ingredients, and instructions to focus on the three D's while spinning in place. There's no discussion of what the magic actually is, or how one internalizes it in the same way (even if not to the same degree) as Dumbledore or, presumably, other accomplished wizards. I would think that after six years of school they would have gotten more advanced than they have. Harry's got to face Voldemort next year, and Chosen One or not, I'm not sure he's been given the magical skills to do it.

And, of course, aside from being concerned for Harry, I just want to know all this for myself.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

GrooveLily and MP3tunes

Thanks to Adam, I've been listening a lot to a band called GrooveLily recently. They've got a bunch of free mp3s on their website, and then this week I finally went and got some of the complete albums. Lots of fun music, but it's the electric violin that I'm really loving. Take a look at this thing. From what I can tell, it's got six courses (sounds like a couple extra fifths below the usual range) and frets (!?). Look at what she has to do with her bow arm to get those low strings. I really want to try playing that. She can do some pretty incredible stuff with it, too.

If you want to hear some of their songs, go to their site, click on "Music" and then look for the "mp3" icons next to the songs. (I'd link directly to the page, but framed sites are sucky that way and I can't.) Some of my favorites available there are Live Through This, Phantom Lover, Apocalyptic Love Song, and Can't Go Home, so start with those.

While I'm here, I'll mention that the albums I bought I got from I've been wanting to try that site, and finally found that they had something I was looking for (though not the most recent album, unfortunately). I like the DRM-free downloads, and the 88¢/track ($8.88/album) price, so I'd recommend it for that. The shopping system could use a bit of work, though. There's no shopping cart to put stuff in, tally it up, and buy all at once, so it's difficult at first to figure out how much you're spending, or to change your mind about things. (I found out later that they send an email receipt with the day's purchases at midnight, though, which is a little bit helpful at least.) Still, overall it was a good way to get (legal) instant download gratification.