March 24th, 2009


Physics strikes again

So there I was, driving home from the OES thing on Sunday. In the back of the car were several helium balloons. (The dinner involved *vast* numbers of balloons, and the cleanup crew simply stuffed about half of them into the Associate Grand Matron's hotel suite, producing a thicket of strings hanging down from the ceiling. As her Marshal, msmemory agreed to take a few off her hands.) One of the balloons was deflating just enough to be floating relatively free in the car. And as I was driving, something was bugging me.

It took several minutes to puzzle out exactly *what* was bothering me, but I eventually got it. Every time I stepped on the gas, the balloon would float forward. Every time I braked, it would float backwards. Precisely the opposite of what every instinct tells me about acceleration and deceleration.

After a minute or two, I managed to construct a plausible explanation of why it was happening (having to do with the movement of air within the accelerating car). But yay for simple demonstrations that physics can still surprise me...

Giving the charge

Before I forget: as previously mentioned, we had three candidates for the Third Degree this past Thursday. Overall, it went well, if rather inefficiently -- we didn't get to dinner until about 8pm, and didn't start the second section (the meat of the degree) until almost 9pm. There are things we need to work on -- in particular, I need to get more hard-assed about *everybody* showing up for rehearsal, and how things work with three candidates (the Stewards, who normally have little to do, are much more important when there are three) -- but I don't think the candidates noticed most of the rough edges. The Past Masters all did a good solid job, and (blessedly) restrained themselves from shouting out corrections to each others' lines. (I was a bit worried -- it's a common bad habit.)

I did give the Candian Charge, as planned; if I do say so myself, it rocked. I gave the preamble, then had them drop the lights so that the main light was the spot on the candidates kneeling at the altar, plus a few other small strategic lights around the room. I started out midway between the altar and East, so I was in semi-darkness, and gradually approached them, verse by verse, so I was right at the other side of the altar for Verse 7. Matching that, I played with tone a bit: calm and friendly at the beginning, with a very slow crescendo in Verses 3-6, then back down to *very* quiet for the final one, which is directed straight at the candidates. As I hoped, they gave the "Never" in Verse 7 without needing any more prompt than a raised eyebrow, meaning that I'd drawn them in properly.

*Quite* a lot of fun: there are few things I enjoy more than blurring the lines between ritual and acting. I'll have to do that bit again sometime.

For those who were interested (and for my own records), here's the final form of the charge, as I actually gave it. This has a few additional tweaks beyond the version I posted a few weeks ago, and worked well.
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Feeling oddly guilty

Little moments of self-insight: I know that I am just a little too Lawful for my own good when I notice that I feel strangely guilty for my tribe's part in manipulating Dancing With the Stars. I mean, the *only* explanation for Woz making it through another week is that the Geekosphere Assembled has decided to stack the votes in his favor. Which is cool and all -- he's a neat guy -- but the fact that he is *so* clearly the worst dancer in the bunch does tweak me very slightly. He's surviving at the cost of someone who is at least somewhat better than he is, purely (I suspect) because of tribal loyalty. It's within the rules (and arguably even in the spirit) of the show, but the principle does bug me slightly.

(Yes, yes -- it's a dumb show. Let's take that particular point as read, okay? It's background music when we're not watching something we actually care about, and it's kind of fun watching some of the celebs discover a talent for dance that they hadn't realized they had...)