Saturday, December 31, 2011

Defiling the Mona Lisa

[Added] Apparently you can't post extremely large pictures with blogger, so the actual images have been scaled down to less than half of their original dimensions.  Specifically, the X and Y dimensions have been reduced to 44.625% of what they were, resulting in images about twenty percent the size of what I tried to post.  Also, for some reason unless you choose to open them in a new tab or window it looks like you don't even get to see that, instead you see a version even more scaled down.  To a certain extent I understand, it's generally a good thing if the whole image can fit on your screen, but if I'm trying to show detail it kind of needs to be huge.  So, anyway, that's how it is. [/added]

When I said that I was seeing the lines from the pseudo-brushstrokes of my modified sparklegul when I closed my eyes I was serious. I'm actually seeing them with my eyes open as well, anywhere where there's low enough information and enough noise to create arbitrary shapes, I seem to be seeing them.

But I'm sort of getting ahead of myself. This post is really the story of how I went from this:


A random picture on my computer to these:

They all look the same size on the blog, but if you look closer you'll find that the original is 36 times smaller than the results.  If I had sections of them the same size as the original picture they'd look like this:


I think the original picture was on my computer because I was wondering about the possibility of making an iconic picture out of marbles, and the picture is notably iconic. I came to the conclusion that it would take a lot of marbles. Anyway, I picked the smallest version of the picture on hand, and then scaled down. This the small version above was the biggest version I had on my computer.

I didn't go to the interwebs to get a larger version, of which there are many, because I was just supposed to be doing something really quick and I didn't see the point anyway.

From the original I made the lines that I would use for brush strokes, but I didn't really quite like how that looked, in particular the lines seemed to have a habit of running together when I tried to apply them to the image. That did not look fun.

So I tried various other things, what finally worked out for me was using lines to combine lighter and darker versions of the image. They did not blur together when doing this.

Also, at some point in here, I happened to hit white balance and the possibilities opened up before me.

So, I made version of the image, original side, that was all lined up, then I scaled it up (almost exactly three times larger in each dimension) and repeated the process. Then I scaled up again (this time only by a factor of two in each dimension) and repeated again. This did not really give a quality of brush strokes, more of a sort of colored line are, except if looked at the lines without the color it's a mess. (You can still make out quite a few features though).

Using a similar process of working in steps allowed me to create a texture that doesn't run together, but I still haven't decided whether I prefer the thing with or without the texture. With the texture it looks messy, without it looks flat, I'm not sure which is better. Hence the two versions. Of course, there are more than two versions.

In my newly created Mona Lisa folder there are now 180 files. Not all of them are necessarily things that are suitable for final consumption, some of them are intermediary steps and such, but I've still got a bunch of versions.

In fact, originally those two weren't supposed to be the final versions. When I made this image:
as a demo the middle slice came from what was then supposed to be the final version. The idea behind using the upper left corner for a demo is that the only thing that changes between images is the fine details (the overall shape is always the Mona Lisa) so I could pick any section for a demonstration, the upper left corner is the easiest section to pick.

So, in the demo, from left to right, we have what the actual Mona Lisa looks like (turns out that the the image I started with was a scaled down version of something almost exactly the same size as what I ended up with) then the image I started with which, you can see, is pretty crap. It's been scaled up for the purposes of comparison. Next is was what going to be the final version before I moved on to what I've got now, then a modification of that, then a modification of that.

And then, still thinking that the middle version above would be the final thing, made another demo block of five other things. The last had to be scaled up because it was originally half sized.

Anyway, I have updated the Mona Lisa. More than once. No doubt these destroy everything interesting about the Mona Lisa, but I never liked that thing much anyway.

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(Still not shown actual size.)

We're not all the same


Twice in the past two days I've been hit with, “I know people with depression who can...” do thing I can't do.* Both times as part of a line of reasoning that seemed to be very much that I'm overstating my problems and can too do those things other people with depression did. In defense of the two entirely unrelated people who hit me with this, they were in fact talking about untreated depression so it's not like they were holding me to the standards of people on successful treatment. At least, I think the second person was.**

The trouble is, they're assuming depression is the same for everyone. It's not. Worse than that, they're assuming people with depression can be treated as a single monolithic whole. You know one of us you know us all.

Consider the United States of America. About 17% of the people in the US have depression. That's more than one in six. It's clearly a minority, since most people don't, but it's a fracking big minority. For comparison, that's more people than any racial minority in the US.

I think it's traditional to do something like, “If we got all of the X people together to form their own state,” when trying to get the idea of a large number of people across, so let's go there. If the depressed people in the US all got together to form the state of Depresstopia, (Motto: The least uplifting place on earth.) it would be the largest state in the US by a wide margin.

How wide?

Well, take California, the most populous state in the US, then add to it Illinois, the fifth most populous, then add New Mexico (36th) and we're still not there yet. But we're pretty close. It's low by about the size of Wyoming, which I was initially willing to write off as a rounding error.

Caveats from two directions. First that was quick and dirty math and thus might be off. Second is that those depressed people would have to come from somewhere, so it's not enough to say that Depresstopia would be about a an Illinois, New Mexico and Wyoming larger than California, because California, Illinois, New Mexico, and Wyomig would all be made smaller by the exodus.

My point here is that, whatever the cliché you choose to use, there are a lot of us.

I want to make this point because the tempting thing is to respond by saying, “You know there are different types of depression,” but then people would just check which type someone had and assume that they knew them then. My point is larger than that. There are different types of people.

Try to get a mere million people together who are so similar that by knowing one or two of them you know the capabilities of all of them. Not as many people as there are depressed people, a much smaller figure. A mere million. (That's somewhere between a Rhode Island and a Montana, for those keeping track.)

I doubt you could do it. Even if depression were exactly the same for everyone, which it emphatically is not***, that wouldn't mean everyone who has it would react in the same way because they're different people.

Saying, “I know a depressed person who can [whatever],” as part of the argument, “therefore you can too,” is like saying, “Well I know a Mainer who can spelunk, get in the damn cave,” “I know a human being who can play a glass armonica, I've set up the instrument for you, you're on stage in five minutes”or, “I know a mammal who can fly. You're a mammal. Fly. Right now. I insist.”

I don't know exactly what the appropriate response is. I'm not a bat. I don't have wings. Just because some other mammal can do it doesn't mean I can.

Yes, other people are not as hindered as I am. It's great for them. I am not those people.

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And for the record, not all autistic people can count up toothpicks in an instant. Most can't.

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* Actually, the second time it was more like “I knew a person with depression who could...”

** The individual referred to did eventually get treatment, but I think the statement was in reference to the time in the persons life.

*** This applies within the subcategories as well, it should be noted.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Sparklegul Revisited


I have a tendency to get into ruts. It's not on a Bella Swan level of never doing anything other than cooking, cleaning, and rereading the same handful for books, but I can definitely get repetitive. Sometimes this involves pictures. If I stop and admire and orange mushroom and decide to take a picture of it there's a decent chance that will leave me taking a picture of every single fungus I see that day. Some of this because it's easier for me to take the picture than it is for me to decide whether a given picture is worth taking. Some of it is just that once I get going I find it difficult to stop.

It can also involve editing pictures. If I start modifying a picture I'm probably going to keep modifying it for a good long while. Perhaps all I mean to do is crop it and adjust the color so that it doesn't look washed out, but pretty soon I'm playing with all manner of things and I just don't stop.

When it comes to the sparklegul I did manage to stop. Not before I'd made a version where the water was purple and the sparkles were green or various other versions with strange colors or other interesting features.

Then I didn't touch it for a long time. At some point I came back to it. Last night when I decided to make this post there were 105 different versions of the image on my computer. I made two sort of excerpt pictures so that I could show portions of in in detail, and then I got distracted again. Now there are 26 others. So that's, 131 different versions of a single image, not counting the detail portions. Of course, those are just the ones I saved. And I've just realized that I left some out of that count because they're saved as vector images and I didn't count those. So there's that.

I don't really have a basis for comparison, for all I know everyone makes more than hundred versions of a picture when they sit down for a simple edit. Somehow I doubt it but the possibility is there. It certainly is nowhere near the biggest rut I've been in.

Anyway one of the the things I mentioned before is that I'd come across a way to make something that looked like brush strokes once upon a time but I couldn't figure out how to recreate that. I still haven't and I'm wondering if maybe what I did then only applied to the particular image I did it to. What I have found are some other things I could do.

Starting with a more colorful version of the sparklegul I tried a preliminary version of something and found that it definitely didn't look like brush strokes. I have no idea what it does look like, but I find it pretty, here's an upclose shot of it because if I scale down the whole image the fun stuff will be lost in the shrinking process:


That led me to something else which I think does look somewhat like brush strokes, though could be fooling myself. I don't think it looks like them if you examine too closely, but if you look with an uncritical eye and have some imagination I think it does. So keep disbelief suspended and have a look:



After I made that I had dreams of being able to create Starry Night automatically. So far no such luck with other stuff, I've tried, but I can dream, right?

At this point I've been looking at variations on that so much that I can't close my eyes without seeing the little lines that make up the pseudo-brushstrokes.

If I remember how blogger does things correctly, I should be able to attach the full sized images to this post and have it scale them down automatically (which will make it impossible to see the fun bits) and have the full sized versions open if you click on them.  In the same order as the samples above:


The wonderful world of Advertizing

I have been informed that I have earned one penny from my ads which I'm guessing means that the ads have been approved and gone active.  If that isn't the case then I'm very confused about how this whole thing works.

You may recall that my goal was to earn pennies, so I'm half way there already.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to tell you that there are ads when you probably noticed them before I did.  It's instead to say that if you should notice ads that you do not like, please tell me.  I have only the broadest control over what shows up in the ads, basically I can blacklist certain categories if I want to, so I can't exactly fine tune things but if something is bothering someone I'll see what I can do.

At the moment everything is allowed.  If you should bump into something you don't think should be allowed, let me know and I'll see what I can do.  I want the ads because pennies add up, but I don't want them to be any more bothersome than they need to be.

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Also -this should go without saying but just in case it doesn't- don't click on ads unless you're actually interested in what's being advertised.  Fake clicks could lose me my account and, as I said before, I like pennies.  They're all copper and zinc and stuff.  And ones from 1982 and before weigh more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Elizabeth Warren


On Christmas, or thereabouts, I got a couple hits from searches for Elizabeth Warren, whom I mentioned in passing when talking about ads on facebook.

It seems like I should say more about her. If someone is coming here looking for Elizabeth Warren info there ought to be more here for them than the fact that facebook thinks I have money to donate to her.

As I said before, I would donate to her enthusiastically if I had the money.

It's difficult to know how much of a difference one senator can make in an age when everything gets filibustered, but unless we're going to give up on the idea of democracy we still have to try to get the best people in office. That means electing Warren and people like her.

It seems like anything that I can say about her has already been said better by someone else, and honestly I think the best thing you can do is just listen to her speak. Listen to her talk about the causes of the financial crisis, or what we need to do to fix things. Listen to her address the talking point that people get rich all on their own with no help from anyone. Listen to her talk about predatory credit practices. Listen to her talk about more or less anything.

This, for example, is her speaking on the debt and the idea that asking rich people to pay their fair share is class warfare. It seems like pretty simple straightforward stuff, but for some reason very few people seem to be be saying it. Roads, for example. Roads are paid for by taxes, anyone who makes money using roads, be it directly or indirectly, is getting government help. They should give back so that the roads can be maintained. For some reason many politicians fail to understand this. Elizabeth Warren gets that. More importantly, she's willing to make the argument instead of backing down the moment someone tries to relabel common sense as class warfare.

I think she speaks better when she's not trying to stick to a speech, as in the thing I just linked to, but she can do speeches well. I once came across, on a channel I didn't know I had, a lecture she gave at UC Berkeley. I decided to watch it and then immediately looked up to see if it would be playing again because I wanted to catch the beginning.

The lecture was largely on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she fought to create but I think that what she says there shows a lot about how she thinks and what she stands for beyond that agency. The lecture is available on youtube. Around 42 minutes into the video she says she feels like it's a boring speech, I disagree, but I'm certainty willing to give some highlights.

Of particular note is when she talks about what government does right. That needs to be said more often. I think a part of the problem is that people don't make that argument. When government works right people ignore it and it becomes invisible as a result. When it doesn't work people shout it from the rooftops. As a result the message ends up being entirely negative. If we only talk about what government does wrong and never about what it does right then it's unsurprising people assume that government is always the problem and never the solution.

Someone needs to argue on behalf of government. Warren is willing to do it. That shouldn't be notable, anyone who wants to work in government should be willing to do it, but it is notable because right now almost no one is and someone needs to.

She talks about the problems of the middle class this past generation. This is important because you can't fix the problems if you don't understand them or worse insist on pretending they don't exist at all. This present crisis was decades in the making, and if people pretend it's only a temporary aberration, that it began in 2008 or thereabout, then they will not offer real solutions because they won't be addressing the real problem.

At the end she takes questions:

Asked about the possibility of reinstating usury laws she briefly describes the history of credit and how credit has changed, the games played, and how she hopes the CFPB will work better than usury laws would.

Asked about what she thinks will happen when the Republicans take power (this was in 2010 before the midterm elections) and how she plans to keep the agency from being captured she speaks of her plans.

Asked about whether it is really possible to eliminate the fine print in credit offers she talks about the problems with how things stand and says that she believes that contracts should involve both sides understanding the deal.

Asked about the responsibilities of consumers she points out that the fine print is written with the goal of the consumer not understanding. She includes and anecdote about class of people who have almost graduated Harvard law trying to work out what a single credit card agreement actually says. Also the wonderful line, “If toasters were exploding we would not say, 'People need better engineering degrees.'”

When the product is broken in a way that destroys people's lives, the problem is the product. This, need to be said more often. There's personal responsibility, yes, but it is the responsibility of the seller to make sure their product isn't hideously flawed. That sellers can make things that are intentionally hideously flawed but designed in such a way as to hide the flaw is not a sign consumers need to to go to law school before getting a credit card, it is a sign there's something wrong with the latitude we give to sellers.

Asked “Will you have a website to receive information from consumers and will someone read the information?” She talks about the plans for the website, and then when talking about the fact that we can't forget the human stories behind data she talked about a study she once did that involved families that filed for bankruptcy. If you're like me you'll cry when she talks about reading their stories.

For some people how she responded to those people's stories would be a disqualifier. I know that one of the reasons Ed Muskie never got a shot at the presidency is that he might have cried in public one time. I know that there are those who think that anyone who files for unemployment is parasite not worthy of our respect. I know that empathy has become a dirty word in some circles.

For me it's a sign of what's right about Warren. Politicians in both parties have a tendency to forget that the people they're having an effect upon are people. They become numbers, statistics, lines in the budget, ways to score political points. They can be treated with a scorn and hate because they're not real to the ones doing it. Or, if they are, they're firmly on the side of Them instead of Us.

To be a politician one has to be successful. Someone who is currently bankrupt after spending all of their money and more money that they didn't have to try to save their child is unlikely to seek or gain the nomination for office, much less the office itself. It is important, and unfortunately rare, that politicians remember that those who aren't as successful as they are are still people worthy of just as much respect as everyone else.

That Warren even thought to ask why people went bankrupt instead of just assuming that they brought it on themselves through stupidity or greed already sets her apart from many of the people currently in government. That she cared to ask does as well. But how she responded is just as important. She didn't recoil from the stories and try to convince herself that it could never happen to her by claiming that they all deserved it, she didn't push away their experiences or try to other them. She accepted them for what they were and reacted with empathy.

She cares about those people. The least amoung us. And that, that caring, is such a big part of why I believe that she will do good. I hope she will do well; I am convinced that given the chance she will do good.

She understands our problems, and that's important. She understands what needs to be done to fix them, and that is likewise important. But neither of those things means much of anything if a person doesn't care. Fixing things will require fighting tooth an nail against those who are perfectly happy with the way things are broken. That fight is going to drag on for a long time, it will be difficult, and at every step there will be incentives, financial and otherwise, to give up. Refusing to to see those who are affected by the fight as anything less than people isn't just a powerful motivation to keep going, it's also at the heart of good governance regardless.

All I've really done here is link to two youtube videos, and Warren deserves more support than that. Greater praises should be sung. The myriad reasons Warren would be good for America cannot be addressed in one post and all I've done is pick some things out of the videos I had closest at hand.

Still, I think that if one looks for themselves, they'll find all the reason to elect Warren that they need.

My only reservation about the idea of Senator Warren is that I was hoping for President Warren. I don't mean a primary challenge to Obama, I just mean that in 2016 I'd like to be able to vote for Elizabeth Warren for president. It's not unheard of for someone to have a successful run for president four years after a successful run for the Senate (see Obama himself) but I think it's pretty rare.

Still, she's running now, and given that the best thing we can do is elect her. Unfortunately she's running in Massachusetts and I happen to live in Maine (hence the Muskie reference above) so I'm not going to have a lot of say in whether or not she's elected.

More information about Elizabeth Warren can be found on her website.
The written version of the lecture I linked to (which isn't exactly the same as the actual one because she didn't stick to entirely and it doesn't include the questions) is available at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Facebook ads and music I don't understand


Generally I try to ignore facebook ads, but I'm actually not that good at ignoring things. I don't click them, but I definitely notice them.

From them I have learned that, apparently, the standard uniform for traveling around Europe is a bikini, and fixing cars either involves making a car have four front wheels or replacing all it's wheels with massive metal wagon wheels. I've also learned that the most popular game on facebook appears to have gotten that way not through word of mouth or quality or anything like that, but instead by constantly advertizing on facebook. For that matter “the best game on facebook” seems to be operating on the same premise.

Until yesterday the only time it showed an ad for a person was when that person was a politician. Usually Obama or Elizabeth Warren, presumably because I'm following them and thus it would seem a reasonable bet that I'd be receptive to giving them money. Certainly I would be if I had money. To Warren I would donate enthusiastically, to Obama it would be in a more subdued, “You've disappointed me in myriad ways but you have done some good things and it was nice to have health insurance for a few months, and the alternatives to you are all disaster so take the money and try to do a better job,” sort of way, but had I money I would share with both of them.

When it did have an ad for another person that person was always a politician and, so far, one whose polices I would largely agree with. Thus when I've seen an ad about a person, it was always a person I should probably be aware of. It was the one place where facebook ads actually managed to be relevant, even if they still didn't make me click them.

So last night it showed an add for someone I'd never heard of. I think my eye was drawn to it in part by the fact that the picture was taken from a weird angle, but I didn't really pay attention to that.  Mostly I looked at it, saw a name I'd never heard of, and put the person's name into google to see why they might be relevant.  (I did this without reading what the ad said.)

She is Polish, I have some Polish ancestry, but facebook doesn't know that, so that wasn't it. She was born in the same year as I was, at first I thought she was born on the same day as I was, but that's because I was expecting the date to be day-month-year (isn't that how it's done in places not here?) when it was actually shown as month-day-year. That we were born in the same year is something facebook would know, somehow I don't think that was it. She seems to like, or at least like wearing, the color orange. Orange is my favorite color. Facebook doesn't know that.

She's a singer, which we'll come back to, but that's not why facebook thought I'd be interested in her. Amoung various other things I've never listened to a Polish musician before and facebook certainly doesn't have reason to think I'd like Polish music. After looking around the internet, and looking back to see what the ad actually said it became pretty clear that the reason for the ad was how she looks. She's got a pretty face, but most pictures of her don't really capture that because they're distracted by something else: She has large breasts.

I'm guessing that the reason the picture in the ad was taken from a weird angle was that that angle emphasized the size of her breasts.

The reasoning behind showing me the ad seems to be very simple: I'm male, she has large breasts, therefore I will be interested.

I do in fact think she is a beautiful woman (though I don't think the size of her breasts has a lot to do with it), and I am certainly attracted to beautiful women, but there's no money to be made off of me thinking that because I'm not in the habit of getting invested in a random beautiful women I don't know who I happen to learn about on the internet just because they're beautiful.  Not even enough to "like" them on facebook.

I'm definitely not the actual intended audience for the ad.

When I took the name and punched it into google without reading the ad I found stuff that does seem interesting to me, which I've already mentioned: she's a Polish singer my age, she might even like my favorite color. That's all much more interesting to me than what the ad actually said.  All it had to say was that she was an “all natural photomodel.” So, unless the "natural" is there to assure us she doesn't use false eyelashes, her most defining feature according to her own ad is apparently that her breasts are both large and real.  That's not exactly a happy commentary on the world.

Anyway, I've never heard Polish music before, some of her songs are on youtube, I listened to one. Not my kind of thing.

I don't really like using “pop” as a genre because pop just means popular and surely that’s more a function of time and place than anything intrinsic to the music. One imagines an exchange of:
“I heard Bach will be playing harpsichord tonight, did you want to come?”
“No way, I don't like pop.”
taking place some time in the 18th century.

(It wouldn't actually happen because the term pop only dates back to the 1920s and the speakers in such a conversation probably would have been German anyway.)

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about music to be more specific. It has a sound that I have only ever heard described as pop which is quite catchy in a way that gets stuck in your head but is not my sort of thing at all. Perhaps it can be narrowed to modern pop or recent pop or something, because the Beatles and the Stones are considered pop and they didn't make music like that. (Something listed it as "dance pop", perhaps that's how one should describe it. I honestly have no idea.)

Anyway, listening to it has not left me with a desire to hear more of her music, but it has left me with a strange urge to listen to more Polish music. Just not in that style. What's the Polish equivalent of the Beatles, or CCR, or Crosby, Stills and Nash (Polish Young can tag along too, I suppose, but I'm not interested in him as a solo artist) or Simon and Garfunkel?

That's what I find myself wanting to hear: music which is in a style I like, but in Polish. It's a strange desire since I don't understand the Polish language and thus wouldn't know what I was hearing. Then again, if it had a nice CCRish sound I probably wouldn't mind not knowing what the words meant.

Of course the truth is that I wouldn't recognize Polish anyway* so probably almost any Slavic language would satisfy the urge, and if someone has, say, Hungarian music to recommend I'm not going to reject it for not being Slavic.  So basically I guess what it comes down to is not-English.

So, now that I have a strange urge to hear music sung in a language I don't actually understand, I'm asking anyone who read this far if they have any recommendations for such music.

So, does anyone have any recommendations?

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* In fact, apparently my most recent Polish speaking ancestor, a great grandfather on my mother's side whom I never met, spoke a Polish so heavily influenced by and interspersed with Russian that when my mother heard actual Polish for the first time she didn't realize it was the same language he spoke until she was told it was Polish.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My financial situation and my home


I've mentioned that if not for the understanding nature of my family I'd be on the street looking for charity to get food. There are limits to how far they'll go though, mostly because there are limits to their finances.  For example, it's one thing to have me live with one of them rent free, it's another to pay for a house for me alone.

For almost my entire life I've lived in the same house. Originally it was my whole family. First my father moved out, then my sister, now my mother is planning on leaving. That will leave me alone in the house. If I can't scrape together enough money to cover the utilities and property taxes I won't be able to keep living here and the house will have to be sold.

This doesn't mean I'll be out on the street, I can move in with my sister. Yes, that sister. I only have the one. I spent more than half my life living with her, I'm sure I can survive doing it again. That's not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is losing my home.

It's arguably not a very good house, but it's my house. It's my home. My home. I don't want to lose my home.

I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm not convinced there's much I can do. It's not a good time to be looking for work, and even if it were I have serious doubts about my ability to do work. I haven't been able to accomplish school work, which doesn't require all that much discipline. Basic tasks can take me very long periods of time with much of that time spent doing absolutely nothing, just staring off into space trying to force myself to move on to the next step. I've already linked to the post above, but it seems worth linking to again, this time regarding how it took me an hour to brush my teeth.

I really don't think that would fly in a workplace, and that assumes that I somehow manage to force myself through the myriad steps needed to get a job in the first place.

So I don't know what I'm going to do.

If I gather together all of my savings and call in every debt that I am owed, I might be able to get a few months wiggle room. Heavy emphasis on might. That debt is leveraged though, I've already promised most of it to a family member in order to make investments that didn't pan out*. On the other hand, I don't think it matters. I'm not worried about being demanded to pay that back, in fact I think the family member I owe it to decided it was a loss ages ago and doesn't think of it any more. (For my part, I still intend to pay it back, some day some how.)

Anyway, even if I get the wiggle room, I don't know what I can do with it. I might be able to get the government to pay for depression treatment for me. That needs to be looked into. If I do, and if it works, then maybe I can hold a job, and depending on the state of the economy maybe I can get a job. But that takes time.

Even if I started seeing a doctor now, it can take weeks to find out if a treatment is going to work. All of the treatments that have been tried before have failed. What are the odds we'd hit a working one on the first try this time, or the second try? Trying various treatments would be weeks upon weeks.

So I don't know what's going to happen, but the most likely outcome seems to be losing my home.

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I was going to say that this is unrelated, but that's not entirely true. It is related, just not in terms of whether or not I can keep my home. It's related to the fact that I'm broke, it's related to my finances.

I've been thinking of monetizing the blog ever since I made it, considering following in Ana's footsteps with an amazon affiliate thing, and pondering adding a tip jar via Paypal. None of this would give me anything resembling financial security because I'm pretty sure that the blog's traffic is worth pennies at most. But I like pennies.

The adds might actually make those pennies.

I don't recommend products very often, so the Amazon thing would be unlikely to earn anything. Consider that the books I have mentioned here most often are Twilight and Left Behind. Still, if someone should want to waste their money on those books after I mention them, wouldn't it be nice if I got a cut of that? I don't think it would actually happen, but for some reason I like the idea that it could happen. Of course right now it can't, because I don't have an Amazon affiliate account. Hence the thought of getting one.

As for the tip jar, I've been considering begging you all for money in hopes that I might do a small craft project I've had in mind for a year. I don't know if any of you have money to spare, I assume you don't, but I figured it might be worth a try. I don't actually know how to create a paypal tip jar for the blog though.

So those are things that may come to pass in the future.

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* They would have. Years ago I had more than a thousand dollars in orders for products I'd already bought the materials to make (the money I was loaned was mostly for materials), but I got so damned depressed that I never got it done. (Which is why waiting lists are better than accepting money in advance. If you fail to follow through on a waiting list, no one gets ripped off. I'm glad I used a waiting list.) If I hadn't gotten depressed then I could have used some of the money from those sales to make new products and still have most left over.

That was selling something at $100 each (the only reason that I know it was over a thousand dollars in orders was that I had more than ten people on the waiting list when I had my breakdown.) Now more or less the same product is available from China for about ten dollars.

Anyway, you can see how I thought I'd be able to pay back a loan, the market was there. It was a sound investment, I just didn't count on my depression getting worse. I'd already been coping with it for years, how was I supposed to know the bottom would drop out?

Earlier this year, I tried to get back into that field which is, for whatever it's worth, puzzle making (think: Rubik's cube.) This time I had a plan for coping with the depression, I'd take myself out of the equation. When I got depressed 3d printing was both more crude and more expensive than it is today, making a whole puzzle using was only just becoming feasible. Instead what you could do is make one of each part using 3d printing, smooth the parts out by hand, make molds of them by hand, and then make copies of them by hand.

Now it's possible to just print the whole puzzle for the sort of prices one used to sell the handmade ones for. (Which means that even if I should end up depressed into uselessness when someone places an order, they still get their order. I just have to design and test the puzzles, a machine fabricates the actual plastic pieces.) Unfortunately, as near as I can tell, no one pays those prices anymore.

So that didn't work out.

I wasn't hoping to make a living off of it, I was hoping to just make enough money from one puzzle to afford to make a prototype of the next. It didn't happen.

If you happen to know anyone who is willing to pay $300 for a big puzzle or $100 for a small one, by all means introduce them to the previous links, but I don't think such people exist anymore.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Base twelve math - Division Rules


[I should point out that only after writing this whole thing out did it occur to me to look online to see what others have said about base twelve.]

When I was writing up the division rules I was reminded of something someone once said about different bases. Specifically, they thought it would have been better if we used base twelve because twelve has more divisors. Because I feel like using random symbols that probably won't even show up for most people, I'm going to introduce two symbols that are new to me instead of using the traditional method of dealing with new digits (which is to use Latin letters.) So Ѧ means ten and ϟ means eleven.

Thus 1ϟѦ base twelve would be 1 gross (144 base ten) plus twelve times eleven, plus ten. Which is the same as 286 base ten.

Given that we're all already trained in base ten it will obviously be harder for us to use base twelve regardless. For example, when I wanted to work out what 1/7th would be in base 12 (.186Ѧ35 repeating, if I did it right) most of what I did was using base ten.

Also, the person who said base twelve would be better was in no way referring to the division rules. Fractions possibly*, but not division rules. All of which is to say, what I'm doing here is completely pointless.

-

0

This is exactly the same as base ten, but there was an error in my thing for base ten. Zero isn't a divisor of anything, by definition. I honestly don't know what that is. The only number it could be a divisor of is zero, and apparently saying that zero divides zero would be problematic for something. Thus zero is the only integer that doesn't divide itself (for any other integer X, X is a divisor of X) and also the only integer that doesn't divide zero (for any other integer X, X is a divisor of zero.)

It's not as if saying zero was a divisor of zero would make zero over zero stop being indeterminate, 0=c*0 for an infinite number of integers c, so 0/0 would still be impossible to solve, and you'd still have to resort to limits if you wanted some kind of answer. Still, there must be a reason of some sort.

The division rule for zero will be the same in every base.

-

1

Exactly the same as base ten: is it an integer?

The division rule for 1 will be the same in every base.

-

2

Exactly the same as base ten: is the last digit divisible by two?

Two is a divisor of ϟѦ03495Ѧ349ϟ3Ѧ091ϟ3495159Ѧ because two is a divisor of Ѧ.

This still works because 2 divides twelve. So if the last digit is 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, or Ѧ, the number is divisible by 2.

-

3

This is the first thing that is different. Is the last digit divisible by three?

Three is a divisor of 81Ѧϟ125ϟ7ϟ934589 because three is a divisor of 9.

This works because 3 divides twelve. So if the last digit is 0, 3, 6, or 9, the number is divisible by 3.

-

4

Is the last digit divisible by four?

Four is a divisor of Ѧ0466208ϟ490Ѧ34Ѧ090 because four is a divisor of 0.

This works because 4 divides twelve. So if the last digit is 0, 4, or 8, the number is divisible by 4.
-

5

This is the first hard one, it's sort of like it's somewhere between the rules for eleven and seven in base ten. You break up the digits into groups of two, add the lowest, subtract the next lowest, add the next, subtract the one after, and so on.
Of course, you can't do that when there are only two digits, but in that case there's another rule. Actually, there's more than one. Use which ever one is easier. You can either multiply the twelves digit by 2 and add the ones digit, or you can multiply the ones digit by -2 and add the twelves digit.

So take a number, say: ϟѦ0943530048Ѧ513, then break it up:
-ϟѦ+09-43+53-00+48-Ѧ5+13
then cry because you don't have a calculator that operates in base twelve which means that you have to work out the addition and subtraction yourself. Of course, if you did have a base twelve calculator handy, you could just use that to see if it's divisible by five without a division rule.

I may very well be getting all of this wrong and I'm not going to do it in one step, but I think that, combing terms pairwsie I get this:
-ϟ1+10+48-92= -Ѧ1-46 = -127

Then repeat:
+1-27= -26

Now we use one of the other rules:
We could say -2*2 + (-6) = -4 -6 = -Ѧ which is divisible by five.
Or we could say -2 + -6*(-2) = -2 +10 = Ѧ which is likewise divisible by five.

So, in theory at least, it is divisible by five. Is that actually true? Do I have to check? Ok, I'll check (says the idiot who typed in a random 15 digit number.)  My calculator says that that's equal to 15199987645464555 base ten, so yes, it is divisible by five. Lucky random number punching I guess, it has to happen one out of five times.

The first rule works because five divides 101 base twelve, meaning 100 base twelve is -1 mod five. So it's just like the sevens rule in base ten, but with one less digit.
The first of the other rules is because 10 = 2 (mod 5) base twelve. So we can replace every instance of 10 with 2, as in -26 = -2*10 -6= -2*2 -6 (mod 5).
The second is another case of this being like seven in base ten. You see 5 divides 21 base 12, so we can use the same trick we used with seven in base ten. -20 = 1 (mod 5) base twelve. So that means that we can take the -2*10 -6 from before and multiply it by -2 to get -2*(-20) – 6*(-2) = -2 – 6*(-2) (mod 5).
So basically it comes down to which digit you'd rather multiply by two. If things would be easier multiplying the twelves digit, multiply it by two, if it would be easier to multiply the ones digit, multiply it by negative two. Here, with the digits being 2 and 6, either way is easy, but maybe another time you don't remember what ϟ times two is, so if that shows up you'd rather use a different digit. Also, generally, the math will be simpler if you multiply the smaller number.

It's possible my brain may have exploded in the process of making this description.

-

6

Is the last digit divisible by six?

6 is a divisor of Ѧ1ϟ2034931841ϟ04984203491040340 because six is a divisor of 0.

This works because 6 divides twelve. So if the last digit is 0 or 6, the number is divisible by 6.

-

7

The first part of the rule is the same as in base ten, break things into groups of three, alternate adding and subtracting them.
The second part isn't all that far from what it was in base ten. Instead of subtracting twice the last digit from the rest, you add three times it to the rest.
In rare circumstances it might be useful to know that you can add the last digit to five times the rest as an alternate test.

ϟѦ0943530048Ѧ510
-ϟ+Ѧ09-435+300-48Ѧ+510 = 9ϟѦ-135+042 = 907
90+7*3 = 90+19 = Ѧ9  I have no idea if that is divisible by seven, so we repeat the second rule:
Ѧ+9*3 = Ѧ+23 = 103
10+3*3 = 10+9 = 19 we already discovered this is divisible by seven, but this feels like a good time to use the last rule.
1*5+9 = 12 That's just 7*2, but say we didn't know that. Either the second or the third rule would do.
For the second rule 1+2*3 = 1+6 = 7
For the third rule 1*5+2 = 5+2 = 7

I already checked that this was indeed divisible by seven (which is why it's so close to the number I used for 5.) So our rule has worked.

Ok, so why do these things work?
The first thing is because seven is a divisor of 1001 base twelve just like it's a divisor of 1001 base ten. So the same rule applies. The second thing is because 30 = 1 (mod 7) base twelve. We've made use of this sort of thing a lot by this point, so I'm thinking I don't need to explain it again. The third thing is because 10 = 5 (mod 7) base twelve. It's not going to be useful most of the time, but if you've got a two digit number and the twelves digit is a lot smaller than the ones digit, as in the case of the 19 we bumped into above, it might be useful.

-

8

Are the last two digits divisible by 8?
Of course, we've got a question of how to tell. You take the ones digit and add it to four times the twelves digit.

If we're faced with 1Ѧ3963ϟѦ07Ѧ9071938451Ѧ49853403ϟ4, we only have to look at ϟ4.
How would one know whether ϟ4 is divisible by eight?
(Other than the fact I made sure it is, I mean.)
So we go to rule two, ϟ*4 + 4 = 38 + 4 = 40. If that's not obvious we repeat.
4*4+0 = 14. 1*4 + 4 = 8. So it's divisible by eight.

The first rule works because eight divides 100 (which is, I guess, pronounced, “one gross.”) It's the same reason that we only have to look at the last two digits when looking at 4 in base ten.
The second rule is because 10 = 4 (mod 8) base 12.

-

9

Are the last two digits divisible by 9?
To deal with the two digit number we add the ones digit to 3 times the twelves.

So we look at 1Ѧ3963ϟѦ07Ѧ9071938451Ѧ49853403ϟ3 and ignore everything but the ϟ3.
ϟ*3 + 3 = 39 + 3 = 30, and now it's occurring to me that maybe things of the form ϟX are bad examples for this kind of rule.
Anyway, repeat to get 3*3 + 0 = 9. Done.

Lets do another example. Consider nine squared. That's 69 in base 12, but nothing about it jumps out at me as saying it's divisible by nine, so if we just randomly came across it we'd probably need to check instead of instantly knowing it was 9 squared and thus divisible by nine.
6*3 + 9 = 16 + 9 = 23.
2*3+3 = 9

This works for pretty much the exact same reasons as the eight rules. Nine divides a gross, so we only have to look at the last two digits. 10 = 3 (mod 9) base twelve, hence the multiplying the twelves digit by three.

-

Ѧ (ten)

The lazy rule: check two and five.
The complex annoying rule?
This is where we flashback to the rules we used with twelve in base ten. Except worse.
We can add the last digit two twice what remains when we remove it. Or, if we don't want to multiply such a big number, we can do something really screwy with the number. Take the first digit, add to it twice the twelves, digit, four times the gross digit, negative two times the next digit, negative four times the next digit, two times the next digit, and so on.
The sequence is 2, 4, -2, -4, and repeat. Starting with the twelves digits and moving up the higher digits.

Do I have to do an example?

41ϟ4Ѧϟ459529784
4*4+1*2+ϟ*(-4)+4(-2)+Ѧ*4+ϟ*2+4*(-4)+5(-2)+9*4+5*2+2*(-4)+9*(-2)+7*4+8*2+4
Which is a massively intimidating problem. Hopefully it works out like this:
14+2–38–8+34+1Ѧ–14–Ѧ+30+Ѧ–8–16+24+14+4 = 5Ѧ
5*2+Ѧ = Ѧ+Ѧ = 18, though really we can see it's divisible by Ѧ at the Ѧ+Ѧ step.
1*2 + 8 = Ѧ and we are done.

That wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be (at least in part because my random numbers aren't as random as they could be, so there was some useful canceling.) It would have been better if I hadn't misread a sign and been forced to redo the addition and subtraction as a result.
Anyway, I'm thinking that it's not worse than the rule for 12 base ten.

The explanation is, entirely about twelve being 2 modulo ten. So twelve squared is 4, and twelve cubed is 8, but 8 = -2 (mod Ѧ) and I would much rather multiply something by two than eight. Also, having signs alternate can keep the sum from getting too high. In the above I added up 15 things, many of them two digit numbers, and the result was only a two digit number because six of those things were negative. Returning from the digression, twelve to the fourth power is 2*(-2) = -4 (mod Ѧ). To get twelve to the fifth power we multiply by two again, but remember what I said about not liking to multiply by eight when I can multiply by two? Well that goes for negative eight as well, and -8 = 2 (mod Ѧ).
So that's where the 2, 4, -2, -4, pattern comes from.

-

ϟ (eleven)

Add up all the digits, is the result divisible by ϟ?

41ϟ4Ѧϟ459529789
4+1+ϟ+4+Ѧ+ϟ+4+5+9+5+2+9+7+8+9 = 83
8+3 = ϟ. So eleven does divide it.

This works for the exact same reason the rule for nine works in base ten. It will work for 10-1 regardless of what base you happen to be in. In any given base 10 = 1 (mod 10-1).

-

10 (twelve)

Is the last digit zero?

41ϟ4ϟ459529780 is clearly divisible by 10.

Again, this is a rule that works for all bases. That's basically what being in base whatever means. 14514X = 14514*10 + X, and X is always less than 10, so the only way 10 divides the number is if X=0.

-

11 (thirteen)

Take the ones digit, subtract the twelves digit, add the gross digit, subtract the next digit, and so on. Is the result divisible by 11?

41ϟ4Ѧϟ459529789
4-1+ϟ-4+Ѧ-ϟ+4-5+9-5+2-9+7-8+9 = 11
So it is divisible by 11 (thirteen.)

This is exactly the same as the rule for 11 base 10 and will be the same for 11 in any base. 10 = -1 (mod 11) in every base (that's what 11 means after all) so the rule will always work.

-

So, to address the question of whether or not it's easier, here's what we've got:

In any base the rules for 0, 1, (10 – 1), 10, and (10 + 1) will be the same. (Though in base two 10-1=1 and so the rule for 10-1 is redundant.) That means that for any base from three to twelve more than a third of the fourteen numbers we looked at were going to follow those rules. They are neither easier nor more difficult.

In base ten, 2 and 5 have extremely easy rules, you just look at the last digit. (The same is true of 10 but we already covered that.)  In base twelve 2, 3, 4, and 6 fall into this extremely easy category. We've doubled the size of this category. This is an example of more divisors of the base making things easier since the reason these are easy is because they are divisors.

In base ten, 4 has you look at the last two digits. In base twelve the same rule applies to 8 and 9. The size of this category has likewise doubled. Again, more divisors makes things easier.  In this case it's because they're multiple of divisors.

All that's left are five, seven and ten.

Seven is a lot like how it was in base ten.  Five and ten are where things turn out harder, because five is no longer a factor of the base, and ten is no longer the base.  So the change isn't all making things easier.  Still, ten in base twelve seems to fall in the same category as things like six and twelve in base ten, so it doesn't seem to be making things harder so much as shifting where the difficulty lies.

The rule for five in base twelve doesn't have a good analog in base ten.  (Because 101 base ten is a prime number.)  It's easier than the seven rule in base ten and harder than 11 rule in any given base, but similar to both, and that's probably about as precise a comparison as we can make.

So overall it seems like things are quite a bit easier.  Several things have been made easier, other things haven't changed much, only two things have been made harder, and in the case of one of those it's arguable that the difficulty has been shifted onto it rather than created.

I have no idea what difference any of this would make in practice, though.

I do wonder about the importance of even and odd numbers. What if it weren't easy to figure them out? Consider, for example, any odd numbered base. To know that a number is even you'd have to add up all the digits and see if that was even. For a large number you'd probably have to repeat the process multiple times. If that were the case, would we still think in terms of even and odd?  Would we still have names for them? What if, instead of being able to tell whether something was even or odd at a glance, you could tell that it was divisible by three at a glance? Would that have changed our thinking?

In base 12, both would be things you could tell immediately upon seeing a number. Would that make a difference in the way one thinks?

Might we have a trichotomy of divisible by three, one more than divisible by three, and one less than divisible by three to go alongside the existing dichotomy of divisible by two and one more-or-less than divisible by two?  If we did, would it, in any way, matter?

Consider the fact that people actually say, “Two is the only even prime,” as if that's any more meaningful than saying, “X is the only prime divisible by X,” where X is any given prime.  Well yes, two is the only prime number divisible by two, and three is the only prime number divisible by three.

Anyway, there really was no point to this, and given that I kept slipping from base twelve to base ten and back again, there's a fair chance the math is wrong in places.

-
--
-

* So, fractions. If I knew how to make a table this would be easier to communicate. Consider fractions of the form 1/X where X is a single digit number.

In base ten three such fractions terminate after a single digit. 1/2 = .5, 1/5 = .2, and 1/10 = .1
In base twelve five such fractions do. 1/2 = .6, 1/3 = .4, 1/4 = .3, 1/6 = .2, 1/10 = .1

I don't know about anyone else, but I find myself facing thirds more often than I'm facing fifths. (I have yet to meet a recipe that calls for a fifth of a cup, for example.) I definitely come across quarters more than fifths. So base twelve seems to be winning there.

In base ten there is one such fraction that terminates after two digits: 1/4 = .25
In base twelve two such fractions do: 1/8 = .16, 1/9 = .14

In base ten 1/3, 1/6, 1/7, 1/8, and 1/9 fall into neither of these categories.
In base twelve 1/5, 1/7, 1/Ѧ, and 1/ϟ fall into neither.

Which is to say, even though it has fewer numbers to deal with, base ten has more things that fail to be nice. Of course 1/8 base ten does terminate, after only three digits at that**.  So if we count that as being nice then they both have the same rate of failing to be nice, though base twelve still has more nice things.

Base ten has two things that repeat the same digit infinitely: 1/3 and 1/9.
Base twelve has but one, that being 1/ϟ.

Anyway, just looking at 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 you can see why someone might want to do math in base 12.  .4 is a much nicer thing to work with than .33333333333333and-so-on.  .3 is nicer than .25 as well.

** By now you've probably noticed a similarity between the number of digits we have to look at in a division rule for X and the number of digits in 1/X.  I'm not sure how obvious it is though.  It sort of makes me wonder if I had to list the one digit fractions and two digit fractions or if everyone already knew.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skewed Slightly to the Left - World War III, as seen from the GCW offices

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 4).]
[This follows from Fighting Fate.]

Alice said, “New York says that there's been a press release from the Ministry of Peace-”

“Orwellian bastards,” Verna spat.

“They say that they've retaliated on militia who took over a former Nike base in Chicago.”

“A shoe store?” someone asked.

“Nike missiles,” Verna said. “It was a defense project decades ago.”

“A missile base in Chicago?” Cameron asked. Then it hit him, “Wait? The golf course?”

“It just says 'former Nike base',” Alice said.

“Which means golf course,” said the intern who had no bubblegum. “Take a look,” he pointed at his computer. They all gathered round and sure enough, the site of the old base was a golf course.

Cameron said, “Ok, tell New York -and everyone else- that we're not calling it a former Nike base. The government attacked a golf course and we're going to call it a golf course. We're not legitimizing using military force against a golf course by pretending it's some kind of stronghold.”

Cameron took a moment to think, then asked, “And why the hell did they attack a golf course?” No one had an answer. “We've got to get someone over there to find out what's really going on.”

“I'll go,” said the intern with no bubblegum.

“What's you name?” Cameron asked.

“Jake.”

“Good luck, Jake.”

Jake started to leave, Cameron said, “Jake, wait.” Then said, “Camera,” and someone tossed Cameron a hand-held video camera. He looked at, couldn't figure it out, and asked, “Does it have the thingy and the thing?”

“Yes, and yes,” Alice said.

He tossed the camera to Jake and said, “That has a … a,” he gave up and gestured to Alice.

“A satellite up-link and an internet connection over the cellphone networks. You should be able to broadcast live with that in two different ways. Someone needs to actually decide to put it on the air, but even if there's no one to do that it's set up to stream live on the web.”

“What she said,” Cameron said. “Do we have any of the super special cellphone things laying around?”

Alice pulled out a cellphone, fiddled with it, and tossed it to Jake. He asked, “What's special about it?”

Alice said, “GC set up an emergency communications network so various services wouldn't be interrupted in the event of..." Alice looked at the blank stares. "It works even when the normal cellphone network is overloaded.”

“I have no more toys for you,” Cameron said.

Verna said, “Good luck.”

Jake headed off.

-

“I'm getting reports of bombs being dropped on DC.”

“As in... aerial bombing?”

“That's what I'm hearing.”

“Someone refresh my memory, why would you bomb a city while you're in it?

“Who's doing the bombing?”

-

“And it doesn't work,” Cameron said, “Where's the switch to put it into super duper cell mode?”

“It's under the battery,” Alice said.

Cameron removed the battery and switched the modes, “Why is it there?”

“So that you don't hit it accidentally,” Verna said.

-

“This is Camr-”

“I don't care who this is,” the reporter in DC said. “It had better be fucking important.”

“Do you know who's doing the bombing?”

“The GC.”

“Can you prove it?”

“No, but they pulled out their forces right before the bombing started and-” the reporter stopped talking, Cameron worried that something might have happened to him. “A cheap first aid kit, a pistol off a dead cop, and not much else. What do you need?” Another pause. “No problem, I can't shoot for shit anyway.”

“Stay alive,” Cameron said.

The reporter said, “That's unlikely,” and hung up.

Cameron told everyone that preliminary reports were that the GC, not the resistance, was responsible for the bombing that had caused most of the deaths in DC, they sent word to everyone else through back channels since the GC had already shut down their primary lines of communication.

-

“Cam?”

“Yeah?”

“Bruce is in the hospital. Last anyone heard he was unconscious.”

“Which hospital?”

Cameron's heart sank when he found out it was Northwest Community, right next to the so called base the GC had attacked. He asked a colleague about traffic and quickly concluded Chloe couldn't make it by car. On foot, maybe, if she'd had a bike or small motorcycle that could maneuver around cars, maybe, but not by car. Rayford was trying to get to Bruce from a different direction, he had a pretty good start and had a chance at getting there, but even that was doubtful.

Chloe decided to go to one of the places they'd stashed resources, medical supplies that might be needed in the very near future, and prepare for the coming war.

Cameron called Jake and told him that Bruce should be in the hospital there, and -if he'd regained consciousness- he should have an inside line on what was going on. Either way Cameron asked to be told how his friend was doing.

-

“New York says that there's been a threat to use nuclear weapons against Kennedy Airport,” Alice said, her tone making clear that she thought there had to be something wrong with the report.

“That doesn't make any sense,” Verna said. “Why say the airport? If you drop a nuclear weapon on the airport you're nuking the city.”

“Maybe it's some kind of code?” Alice offered.

“Maybe, but from whom to whom?” Verna asked.

No one knew.

“I have a completely different question,” Cameron said. “Why haven't we been arrested yet?”

“Maybe it's like my toothbrush,” Alice said.

“Your toothbrush?”

“It's an electric tooth brush, with a timer. After a certain time it does a sort of stutter thing, telling you to wrap things up. It always does that about six seconds after I think I somehow missed it. Maybe we're just-”

A walky-talky cut her off. Brian, on the roof, said, “They're coming. Get out.”

“It is like my tooth brush.”

-

As they were leaving the building Cameron heard someone behind him say, “London is gone.”

Someone else said, “What do you mean, London-”

“I mean that they could see the fucking blast from Paris. I mean that the shockwave shattered glass in Glasgow. I mean that London doesn't exist!”

-

Cameron's phone rang. He considered that it was probably extremely traceable, and then answered anyway.

“I've got bad news about your friend.” Jake said.

“How bad?”

There was as short pause, then Jake said, “He's dead.” Cameron couldn't find anything to say. “The hospital got hit pretty hard, maybe the hardest of all the buildings around here. They said that he was helping evacuate the other patients when it collapsed. So... I guess he woke up. He made a difference. I talked to a few people who said he saved their lives. I... I wish I had better news.”

Cameron's mind flashed, as it always did when he heard about someone heroically getting someone out of a building, to an image of children, five to ten years old, being rescued.  And then, as always happened, the full reality of the Rapture hit him again.  There were no children like that.  There were babies, there were teenagers, but until the babies grew up some more there would be no five year olds.  The Second Coming would arrive before the next ten year olds.

Whoever Bruce died saving, they weren't the children Cameron imagined. And that's when Bruce's death sank in for Cameron.  When he was able to talk he said, “Thank you ... for finding out about Bruce. What about the attack?”

“The soldiers aren't talking.  They're being very scary. Anyone who asks questions, not just me, is getting some very threatening blowback. No one else has any idea why it happened. I'm not even sure the soldiers know. I saw them snatch someone's camera when I first arrived, so I'm only filming when they're not looking. I got some footage of the hospital ruins and some of the other damaged buildings.

“I've also recorded some of what the survivors said. I haven't done much else.”  Jake sounded like he was confessing to a horrible failure when he said that.

“You're doing fine. If you can, record every single thing that was damaged. This didn't happen because someone had a bad day's golf, the intended target has to be something else. At least some of the accidental collateral damage must be neither accidental nor collateral. See if you can figure out what it is.”

“Will do, boss.”

“And, Jake?”

“Yeah?”

“Be careful. They've already taken over the office, at some point they're going to try to round up the reporters in the field.”

“I'm already being careful.”

“Good luck.”

-

[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]