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Category: "The Mind" - Charlie's Thoughts

Category: "The Mind"

Scientific Mysteries - Why I Love to Fly

12/04/13 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Mind, Technology

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The idea of flying has always been one of those weird blendings of the real and unreal for me; as I write this, I sit comfortably in my chair on an A320, watching us seemingly levitate through the air, cutting through the clouds. The winglets appear to hold us fixed in a straight flight through some unseen current, almost like a car on a Hot Wheels track.

And yet I understand that the magical sensation we know as lift is caused by a pressure differential forming around the plane based on the carefully designed shape of the wing which allows the air passing over and under the wing to flow at different speeds.

A few weeks ago I passed a checkride and officially became a pilot. I've done the requisite number of hours in various flight conditions and understand most of the physical components of a plane and of the atmosphere which allow flight from the properties of a wing to the effects of humidity on aircraft performance. Even as I flew my first commercial flight since starting my training, I could see the perfectly executed entry into the pattern "on the 45."

Yet despite the addition of checklists, rules and all that practical knowledge, I realize that I've maintained that sense of wonder; maintained the passion for the mysterious experience that is flight. For me, being able to use physics, logic, and well-defined concepts to create something so totally inconceivable and magical is truly gratifying.

I realize, in hindsight, that this is the second such passion I've been able to explore. Photography bears a strange number of similarities to flight. As I explored photography, I was told to use the "Rule of Thirds" which says that if the subject is generally on the one-third portion of the frame, it's often more interesting. I even led workshops in college, teaching people how to use flash in their photographs to ensure that the subject is well lit and easily distinguished from the background. It's quite simple really, just a matter of tweaking settings and coloring the light to match the frequency of the surrounding light. Yet I looked back through some old pictures and I saw myself applying the simple lighting tricks, but somehow capturing the life's work of a retiring swim coach or a moment of warring ideologies and changing times in a street debate between protestors. Even things so banal as a ping pong ball falling in a cup of beer seem to somehow convey more than the splash that's depicted and frozen in time.

Many great photographers often tell stories with or speak about the inspiration for their photos, people often refer to them as artists. Yet no matter the subject matter, I'll always consider myself simply a photo journalist. I'm capturing a tangible, real moment with (hopefully) proper exposure, composition and light balance. When I see it on paper though, that photo is not a page from a history book, but rather seems to tell a story. What story I cannot begin to understand, but I know that there's something more there, even if only a memory in my own mind.

Even programming, one could say, exhibits these characteristics. I sit and type in a well-defined language that might as well be French to most people, yet is nevertheless very rigid. But when people open up a site I've made, or a well-coded game…the experience they have on there can be truly transformative in a way that can't possible adhere to the constraints of a strongly typed programming language.

Every time I snap a picture and see it presented back…the result seems so much different, so much more magical than what I was just seeing through the viewfinder. And every time I reach rotation speed and feel the wheels gently ease off the runway, I find myself confused for a moment. I understand why they are doing this, yet the fact that they are, that the plane is in flight, seems wonderfully impossible. The application of science, of the definite and tangible rules of physics, to create something wholly foreign is…well, indescribable. But needless to say, I'm pretty confident that I'll enjoy being a pilot, a programmer, and a photographer for years to come, even as I search for the next mystery of science to unravel.

Tags: flying

To all people like me...

06/25/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, The Mind

If you are having to cook on your own this summer, and A) Can't cook and B) Don't want to spend 3 hours trying to. Check this out now:

Have a great weekend!


06/13/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Mind

People with SLR cameras
There are sort of two categories in this topic:
1) People who have an SLR because they think it's a "Better camera"
2) People who have more expensive cameras than me, but don't really know how to use them.

1) Let's address the first point...the DSLR market has expanded dramatically, and perhaps that's just something I have to get used to. I believe entry level DSLRs are around $400 these days, which isn't a ton more than the $300 a high end point-and-shoot costs. It irks me though, everytime I see tourists walking around with a Canon T2i ($800) and taking pictures of the sights.

Perhaps the most egregious errors I spotted were in the many churches I visited. People were constantly trying to take pictures with the pop-up flash. *Face palm*. This is a dead give away that people have no idea what they are doing. Because every single church I was in could be photographed without the use of a flash, but one would have to know what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are to be able to do it, because the auto-mode will generally not let you push the ISO past 800.

Really, a pop-up flash is almost always useless unless you are using it to illuminate people directly in front of the camera. Almost any other situation would produce a weird fall-off line. To the point: People with DSLRs should learn what their camera can do, and how to do it. It's like using a gun, you should have to have a permit. Otherwise, "Point-and-Shoot" cameras are called that for a reason. They are optimized to take pictures without knowledge of technical settings.

2) On a related note, there is a second group of people who I see running around with Canon 5D Mark II's. First off, I can't help but drool a little bit everytime I see one. They are very nice cameras, although they cost twice as much as mine did (Which was a lot I think!).

That being said, like part 1), the differences between those cameras and the mid-range cameras is very small, and really only tangible to good photographers. I basically figure that if you don't do wedding or portrait photography, you shouldn't have one.

Yet there are people who seem to think that this expensive camera will kick out magic. I asked someone with one to take my picture by the arc-de-triumph, and this is what I's not terrible, but:


People who ride one stop on the bus
I unfortunately have to take the absolute most pointless bus in the world to work every day. It runs every 40 minutes, all day. Yet the entire bus route is < 10 minutes long. To add insult to injury, 80% of the people who ride the bus on the entire line get off at my stop. So I take very careful note of people's riding habits.

Anyways, the other day, someone waiting at a stop (Which was not mine or the train station) decided to get on the bus. "Woah!" I thought to myself, as it's rare that people ever get on the bus outside of the two aforementioned stops. Then she proceeded to get off the bus on the next stop...

Why? I'll never know.

Can Openers
Back in my day, we had can know, the ones you put on a can and took the top off with and then your mom always told you to be careful with the top because you'd cut yourself.

Skip forward a few years, and find me in my apartment having to lookup a youtube video on how to use an Ikea can-opener. Yeah, laugh all you want, but it was really hard. Apparently, these new contraptions no longer open the can, but rather decapitate it. I've seen something like this once in a movie before, but boy does the future sneak up on you fast.

I guess sometime between the time I ate a can of Spaghetti O's everyday after class and the time I actually needed to feed myself for dinner, I got left behind technologically...god I miss Spaghetti O's...with meatballs.


Well glad I got all that out. Time to go enjoy my luxury dinner of Brats and canned beans...ugh, it looks like someone messed with the hue slider in photoshop on my "green" beans...needless to say I will be buying frozen vegetables from now on.

The dangers of over-education, and a panlist

01/19/09 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Music, The Mind

This one's a reader. My improv group enjoys profuse abuse of our panlist (email group list). Over tour, there were a few songs that caught our attention. One was "Cooking by the Book, Lil bigger remix", you can look that one up on your own. The other was an old song by LFO (Lyte Funky Ones, yeah the people who sang "Every Other Time)...singing "Summer Girls". First, the video:

Now without further adue, I present the email which set off this unfortunate chain of critiques, and critiques of critiques and so forth.

The Grammatical Essentialization of the Other:


shouldn't it be "I like girls WHO wear Abercrombie & Fitch" instead of "I like girls THAT wear Abercrombie & Fitch"?

Surely objectification of women abounds on the lyrical level in "Summer Girls", but far more insidious is the grammatical objectification of the girls in question. A seemingly harmless song is, in fact, a nuanced assault not only on the personhood of young girls but also the English language itself.


See the followup after the jump, sure to get anyone in academia excited about the VQ's next show:

Full story »

Ode to Acetaminophen

11/20/08 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, The Mind

So I'm still sick, which is going to ruin my Thanksgiving break. The Health services people have ruled out basically everything except mono. So I went and got blood drawn for that. Unfortunately, I failed my Strep Tests worse than my Philosophy tests....downer. Anyways, to prove that I'm not letting whatever I have get the best of me, I decided to write a little song called "Ode to Acetaminophen" (the active ingredient in Tylenol). In reality, I'm alternating Ibuprofen and that, but it's just such a cool name. Anyways, this is sung to the tune of some song, maybe "Ode to a Superhero" by Wierd Al, or just make up a tune, or read it as beat poetry. Anything should convey the message, song after the hop...

Full story »

Tags: poem, song

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.


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