In 1978, it was rare ever to encounter a computer, much less someone who had one at home. The “personal computer revolution” was only about a year old, with Apple, Commodore, and Radio Shack all introducing their first consumer models in 1977.
Of the people who did have computers at home, surely only a small fraction were so generous with them as to allow their sons’ twelve-year-old friends to spend afterschool hour after hour, day after day, month after month sitting at them, tapping in and trying out dumb little programs; and an even smaller fraction were also seasoned programming experts with the desire, ability, and patience to impart some of that expertise to receptive but very green ears.
This weekend I, one of those twelve-year-old friends in 1978, mourn the passing of Andy Kane, one of those generous and patient computer owners. Andy was one of the many reasons I was lucky to befriend his son Chuck in the seventh grade. He was a living example of the ability to make a career out of writing software and he contributed significantly to nurturing the then-embryonic skills that today support me and my family. My condolences to his; I will always be grateful.
1999: Andrea and I (finally) get married at Sunset Point, a beautiful circle of palm trees atop a grassy knoll overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and, in the distance, the Magic Kingdom, at the Polynesian Resort in Walt Disney World.
The years that follow: we start a family, hoping always to return to that magical spot.
2013: We (finally) return to WDW and Sunset Point, this time with the fruits of our union.
Gone forever, to make way for the construction of new villas over the lagoon, and as part of a general revamp of the resort, probably in anticipation of Disney’s upcoming Polynesian-themed film Moana.
Walt Disney himself endorsed the continual reimagining of his parks, and no doubt the Polynesian will be as magical after these changes as it was before. But that circle of palm trees was my one favorite place in the entire world. Goodbye Sunset Point! Thank heavens we made it back to you just in time.
We can consider this as a number written with one base-10 digit followed by three base-26 digits (where A is 0, B is 1, C is 2, etc.) followed by three more base-10 digits. It’s easy to convert such a sequence to a pure base-10 number. For instance, 0AAA000 is 0. 0AAA001 is 1. 0AAA002 is 2. And so on up through 0AAA999, which is 999, and then to 0AAB000, which is 1,000. 0AAC000 is 2,000. 0AAZ000 is 25,000. 0AAZ999 is 25,999, and 0ABA000 is 26,000. And so on.
Here is a short Python function that does the conversion:
result = 0
for character in sequence:
result = result * 10 + int(character)
character = character.lower()
result = result * 26 + (ord(character) - ord('a'))
My first license plate on moving to California in 1992 was 2ZZZ923, whose number value is 52,727,923. Now here’s the exciting coincidence: the number value of my current license plate, from 2007, is almost exactly double that (to within an error of 0.014%)!
I get asked about my favorite movies less often than you might think, so when the question does come up I’ve been in the habit of shrugging it off with a simple, “There’s too many to choose from.” Recently however I was inspired to give the question a proper go and I came up not with a single favorite (because there’s too many to choose from), but with this impressionistic list of movies I would watch at the slightest encouragement no matter how recently I’d seen it, which strikes me as the closest category to “favorite movie” that I can actually answer. Undoubtedly this list is incomplete, and possibly there are films here that I will take off the list some day, but without further ado, and in no particular order (indeed, in a deliberately randomized order) here they are:
Benji; The Matrix; The Incredibles; Die Hard; Zero Effect; Singin’ in the Rain; Memento; Jaws; Risky Business; Silverado; Casablanca; Safety Not Guaranteed; Repo Man; Waitress; The Karate Kid (1984); Being John Malkovich; The Parallax View; Body Heat; Tangled; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); The Natural; The Guns of Navarone; A Hard Day’s Night; Apollo 13; Field of Dreams; My Favorite Year; To Live and Die in L.A.; Pulp Fiction; Koyaanisqatsi; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Roman Holiday; Groundhog Day; Broadway Danny Rose; The Great Train Robbery (1979); Brick; The Rocketeer; It’s a Wonderful Life; The Sting; Mary Poppins; Ocean’s Eleven (2001); 1776; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Shakespeare In Love; The Silence of the Lambs; Get Shorty; Time After Time; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Goldfinger; Jacob’s Ladder; The Game; The Iron Giant; Hopscotch; North by Northwest; The Godfather; The Goodbye Girl; Pocketful of Miracles; Secretary; Amadeus; Swingers; Airplane!; Sleepless In Seattle; Trading Places; Animal House; The Brothers Bloom; What’s Up Doc?; Crimson Tide; Aliens; Bedazzled (1968); After Hours; Fight Club; Silver Linings Playbook; Almost Famous; Enchanted; The Shawshank Redemption
A handful of movies, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, are in their own special pantheon. And then there’s Star Wars. My relationship to Star Wars is… complicated.
The speed of light, we know, is the universe’s speed limit. Nothing can move faster than that through space.
Are we missing the point? Maybe it’s not so much that that’s the top speed through space; maybe that’s the only speed through spacetime, and everything is moving at it — you, me, light, trains, turtles, mountains, everything, always. “Slower” things are moving at the speed of light more in the time direction of spacetime than in the space direction. “Faster” things are moving at the speed of light more in the space direction of spacetime than in the time direction. What we call “acceleration” is (I speculate) nothing other than changing the direction of your constant motion, more timeward or more spaceward. Non-spaceward motion (i.e., standing still) is what we experience as the ordinary passage of time.
If this is anything like right, then it supplies an intuitive foundation for thinking about all kinds of weird mysteries: why the speed of light is a constant in all reference frames (the paradox that got Einstein thinking about relativity in the first place); what’s special about acceleration; and time dilation and the physical basis of the Lorentz transformation.