Saturday, April 29, 2017

Day 100

     Base-10 arithmetic has an undeniable power. Those zeroes! They’re irresistible. So round, so firm.... They suggest a boundless, even transcendent significance without actually saying so...or saying why. And We the Ten-Fingered form all sorts of opinions and conclusions for no better reason.

     But really, Gentle Reader: Apart from all the neuroses over the Millennium Bug database problem – not one of which actually manifested in practice – what was so significant about the arrival of the Third Millennium After Christ? That after eight endless years we would finally get a replacement for the lying philanderer in the White House and his shrieking harpy of a wife?

     (And she sure stuck around long enough, didn’t she?)

     Base-10’s junior partner, of course, is the number 5. Numbers divisible by 5 are almost as appealing as the ones with the zeroes on the end. At any rate, they assume significant roles in a number of places.

     For example, consider the prominence of 5 in age-related matters:

  • At 5, she goes from being a toddler to a little girl...or if she’s been particularly naughty, a “young lady.”
  • At 25, a young man who needs auto insurance is no longer relegated to the Assigned Risk pool.
  • At 35, one has passed out of the “youth” demographic into what we once called “middle age.”
  • At 45, you get your first “preparedness” solicitations from those who sell burial plots.
  • At 55, most state and federal bureaucrats retire.
  • And at 65, you’re old.

     I suppose I should also mention that if the police raid your home for whatever reason and find five or more firearms, the news media will describe you as “heavily armed.” So if you want favorable treatment from the media vultures, keep it to four or fewer.

     As long as we’re playing with numbers, have a few puzzles I’ve always enjoyed. They go like this: You’re given a set of digits. Your goal is that, using any or all of the standard arithmetic and algebraic operators, you must form an arithmetic or algebraic expression with those digits that expresses a prescribed value. You must use all the digits given, and no others.

     Here are a few easy ones to get you started:

  • Express 100 using eight 8s.
  • Express 100 using four 9s.
  • Express 10 using five 1s.
  • Express 20 using two 3s.

     For our more advanced mathematicians:

  • Express 2 using two 4s.
  • Express 1 without using any digits whatsoever (Provide two solutions).
  • Now express -1 without using any digits (Provide two solutions).

     Have fun.

     Answers to questions no one is asking:

  1. Two cords.
  2. July 10, this year and every year.
  3. She retired from all singing and acting in 1949.
  4. Arthur M. Schlesinger.
  5. No one really knows.

     Questions at the end of this column.

     Most Gentle Readers come here expecting to read about politics or public policy, and I’m sure the title of this piece has given some reason to expect a political segment here, so I’ll bow to the expectation and oblige you.

     Trump’s doing just fine, folks. It’s the lily-livered Republicans in Congress who need spinal transplants.

     I watched an impressive movie just yesterday – at YouTube, of all places. Title: I’ll Follow You Down. It stars Rufus Sewell, Gillian Anderson, Victor Garber, and Haley Joel Osment. Here’s the IMDB listing for it.

     Briefly, the plot is about the disappearance of a physicist, a husband and father, after he’s traveled to a physics conference in Princeton in the year 2000. (Those zeroes again!) The disappearance shatters his wife, who becomes irremediably distraught, and moves his father-in-law and his genius son – both also physicists – to investigate the mystery.

     The movie is short, about 93 minutes, which suggests that it was edited for distribution to television. The direction, script, and acting are excellent. Its emotional impact is so high that I can’t figure out why it never made it into general release. The “science,” as in most SF movies, is hokey, but that’s about the only critical thing I can say about it. There are virtually no special effects. I recommend it highly.

     I don’t have a lot else to write about this morning, so here are the questions to the answers no one has been seeking:

  1. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck? (If he could chuck wood, that is.)
  2. What’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic?
  3. Whatever became of Deanna Durbin?
  4. What idiot popularized the notion that a president’s first hundred days are especially significant?
  5. Has Hillary Rodham Clinton ever achieved anything other than marrying a future president?

     You’re welcome. See you tomorrow.


Linda Fox said...

Totally off-topic. I was in the process of writing a blog post, about the impending demise of cable. It occurred to me - there is a market for subscribable videocasts from bloggers on the Right and Center. I'm thinking of a channel that allowed you to watch anyone you wanted, for as many of the videocasts as you wanted. Could be a mix of evergreens and timely types.

Have you ever looked into something like this? A person would have to offer many different v-bloggers, and work out some sort of mechanism to track which episode was watched.

By bundling multiple vloggers into a single channel, it would make it simpler for noobs to cut the cable cord, and give them an alternative to FoxNews and others.

Francis W. Porretto said...

(chuckle) There wasn't really a topic, Linda.

Concerning your idea, I think the existing mechanisms at YouTube would already support such a channel, though without an enhancement to the basic service, reserving access to paying customers would be tricky. (Also, Google would want a piece of the action, which strikes me as only fair, given that the channel would be using their servers.) But providing entertainment alongside news and op-ed is a separate problem, and might not be easy. There are independent makers of video entertainment out there who'd love to get in on the action...for compensation. Whether there are enough good ones, we’d have to find out the hard way.

Cable TV is at a crisis point, but I wouldn’t count the cable companies out. They’re as aware of the problems involved in selling bundled offerings as we are. I have no doubt they’re working on a strategy for altering course. Of course, strong competition from viable alternatives would be a good thing regardless.

Drew said...

4 of fewer firearms?? I can't limit myself to 5 of each type!!! You've truly slipped a gear now Fran.