Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolutions 2017

  • Write 3 blog posts each month:  I'm sticking with 3 this year, since it was a struggle just to keep to that many last year.  
  • Finish 6 books this year:  I actually totally forgot that I'd even made a book-related resolution last year, until just now when I checked.  
  • Do at least 1 blog post on or before the 14th of each month:  This was actually a really good idea from last year that I also totally forgot.  
I'm hoping to actually remember these resolutions this year.  XD

The Great Webcomic Catch-Up: December 2016 Update

So, I made basically 0 progress on the Maq#041 archive, meaning that I've made basically 0 progress on the great webcomic catch-up this month.  That's not entirely surprising, given how the month's gone. 
I'm also considering re-working how I'm scheduling the catch-up.  I'm considering staying caught up with those comics that I've done already, and then treating the rest the way that I did whenever I add a webcomic to the list:  Read the archive (though, in this case, not the full archive), then include it in my daily checks.  I'm not sure yet, though.  I'll let you all know. 

Life Update December 2016

So, life's been pretty crazy in December, which is pretty normal, given the holidays involved.  I can hardly believe that it's the 31st already, but I'm still going to hammer out the other posts tonight.  I've also got a couple of short story notes floating around somewhere, so I should be able to give some sudden short stories in January.  Here's hoping for a better 2017. 

Video Game Update December 2016

Well, video games have been a little weird for me this month.  I ended up playing Heroes of the Storm again, primarily to unlock the Oni skin for Genji in Overwatch, but with the nice side effect of also unlocking Zarya in Heroes of the Storm.  I see that they're in a new competitive season, so I might go get ranked in that. 
I think that I'll be finishing my Civ 5 game in the 1st 2 weeks of January. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life Update November 2016

So, here's the short version of how things went.  Basically, the bad stuff from September & October pushed back some important stuff to November, so all of this month has been catch-up in real life.  And, unfortunately, December is coming in less than an hour, which means that, after I finish catching up on real-life stuff, I've got to do Xmas stuff.  Per my other update, I'll also be pushing to catch up on webcomics.  Per an older update, I'll also try to write some extra posts in December to make up for shortages.  That's it for now, though. 

Webcomic Catch-Up Update: November 2016

Once again, real life got in the way this month, though in a different way.  I managed to finish off the Real Life Comics archive, up to and including December 10th, 2015, which is the last known episode.  I'm working on catching up on my reading of Maq #041, but I don't even remember what was going on at all, so there's going to be some overlap again. 
I'm definitely going to take a more thorough dive into the old webcomic pile in December and January.  I want to be able to finish catching up in February, or maybe March, so that I can then do a new catch-up right after that and then finally get to the point where I just read the webcomics every night - and actually remember what's going on in the ones where that's relevant.  That, after all, is the overall goal of this:  to get back to the point where I've got the routine relaxation every night of reading my webcomics. 

Video Game Update November 2016

So, in an odd turn, I felt compelled to play my copy of Civilization V.  I never did finish a proper game of it.  (I'm not counting my training-wheels game from when I first got it.)  I'm pretty far along in my current game.  My biggest opponent for any victory conditions is England, who's currently oppressing 2 other countries. 
This, unfortunately, means that I haven't played much Minecraft this month.  December is looking to be less busy, but still pretty busy, so I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to just Minecraft out again. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Life Update October 2016

OK, I hate to be making a life update here, but here we go.  I'm looking ahead at November and December, and, while things look busy, nothing looks bad so far.  I expect to make 3 proper posts in November, and then make some extra posts in December, for the sake of my loyal reader.  :P  For the moment, though, I'm off to finish off my October in a Halloweenish way:  by watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and going to bed to be ready for the next work day. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Video Game Update October 2016

So, recently, I dug up Minecraft.  It turns out that I haven't played in about 2 years.  I had to spend a fair amount of time trying to remember what I was doing in that world, but I was starting to get back into the swing of things.  Unfortunately, I got smashed by a bunch of mobs while I was trying to re-explore a cave, and I had no idea where I was, so I think that everything de-spawned by the time that I got to what I suspect was the general area of my death.  I also hadn't made a new backup since 2 years ago, so I'll be starting over; thankfully, I hadn't done much real work, so re-doing what I'd done won't be too bad. 

Webcomic Catch-Up Update: October 2016

I didn't do much webcomic catch-up this month, but I expected that, given a bunch of real life.  I'll try to do more catching up in the coming months, but that'll be harder with the upcoming holidays. 

Little Vampires:  I caught up through October 28, 2016, "Happy Halloween from Portmonster".  Hooray! 
Girls Don't Play Games:  I don't remember this one that well, but, when I checked on it earlier this month, the site was being revamped, so I couldn't access the archive, anyway. 
Real Life Comics:  It looks like this one died in late 2015, but I haven't caught up with the archive yet, either.  I'm pretty sure that I'm re-treading some stuff, but I don't remember where exactly I left off; I'm caught up through January 31, 2013. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Life Update September 2016

I'm just going to be blunt here.  This month has sucked.  I've had some rather considerable problems in real life.  I'd rather not get into the details, but I'm not going to be making the posts that I expected this month.  Things are on track to get better, but I won't know for sure until early October.  I'll see if I can hammer out a third post tomorrow, but I make no promises. 

Webcomic Catch-Up Update: September 2016

FYI, I've made some progress on catching up on webcomics.  I figure that I'll make these monthly reports, since I didn't get through many this month.  This will also be as much for my own reference as anything.  Here we go: 

The Unspeakable Vault of Doom:  I caught up through vault 544.  Overall, the comic's OK.  It makes more sense as one comic of many that I read, and I think that it's the only comic dedicated to Lovecraftian humor that I had on my list. 
The Book of Biff:  I caught up through the latest episode, which was some time in 2014.  I've moved it from active to hiatused. 
xkcd:  I caught up through episode 1739:  Fixing Problems.  This comic has gotten better over the years, or maybe it's just accumulated more gems in its long run.

Little Vampires:  I only started catching up on this one.  I don't remember exactly where I left off on my previous catch-up, so I started at the beginning of the Welcome to Monsterdell arc. 

I'll let you guys know how this goes next month. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sudden Short Story 113

"I need to get back," he said. 
"Get back where?" asked the nurse as she jotted something down on his chart. 
"Maybe," he said, groggily, "maybe I need more sleep." 
"Mm-hmm," replied the nurse, "Well, you came back clean, so we'll have to discharge you.  The best I can do is turn out the lights and close the blinds until I finish your paperwork." 
"Yes, please," he replied, barely keeping his eyes open as his head rolled around. 
She closed the curtains and turned out the lights on her way out.  He knew that he didn't have long.  He rested his eyes for just a bit.  He needed to rest in reality while he could, but he had to get back. 
Luckily, the nurse knocked just before she opened the door, waking him up.  He fell into a shadow just before she flipped on the light switch, though he accidentally took the bed sheet with him. 

Short Story Announcement

So, the other day, I got an idea into my head.  It was an idea for a short story, so, as happens whenever that happens when I'm not driving, I wrote it down, to write the story itself later.  However, as I was considering fleshing it out, I realized that I could extend it to a longer form of short story.  I've decided that I'll flesh it out first, and then post it as a multi-part short story in September and October. 
Can you handle the suspense?  Does anyone actually read my blog?  Find out next month! 

The Great Webcomic Catch-Up: August 2016 Update

I've been re-working my schedule, and I've decided to make Wednesdays focused on my webcomic catch-up.  I wanted to start that today, but I discovered that August was ending and didn't get a chance to blog this morning. 
I'm considering blogging about the webcomics that I read, though I'm not sure whether using that as a way to blog every week counts as cheating.  The main reason that I'm considering that, though, is to prevent myself from skipping a week, so I'll see what happens there. 
I'll also be integrating my process of setting aside webcomics with this catch-up, since I really do need to set some aside if I'm to get anywhere.
That's all for now.  I'll let you know how it goes next month.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Video Game Update July 2016

I mentioned like 2 months ago that I'd be playing Overwatch and Battleborn this year, which is odd for me mostly in that I don't usually play the new shinies.  Well, the short version is that Overwatch runs better than Battleborn, has shorter rounds, and has shorter queues, and I've only got so much time in my day, so it's been winning out for me. 
As for other games, I did recently scratch my FTL itch a few times, and I still keep up on Hearthstone and the Sentinels of the Multiverse weekly one-shot, but that's pretty much it for now. 
Yay boring updates! 

Sudden Short Story 112

"I object to these proceedings," declared, of all people, the ambassador from the United States of America. 
Since nothing had yet been said, everyone was understandably stunned into silence. 
"On what grounds?" asked the acting chairman, after regaining his composure. 
"As you are aware," said the ambassador, "it was agreed by all last year that no representative of the Agent of Chaos would be permitted here, and yet one sits here as an observer as we speak," gesturing toward an ambassador across the room." 
"Mr. Ambassador, on what grounds do you accuse the ambassador from the Holy See of representing the Agent of Chaos?" 
"Mr. Chairman, you and everyone else in this chamber are fully aware that, last week, the Agent of Chaos and his army slew the pope and his cardinals and made off with the Holy See.  There is no reason to think that he is not, at this moment, the occupant of the aforementioned throne, and thus that the former agents of the pope are either his agents or no longer have legitimate authority from the Holy See." 
The rest of the session did not exactly go well from there. 

Sudden Short Story 111

As he walked across the wind-swept city, he marveled at the architecture and wondered about the people who once lived there.  He needed to return to his ship, he thought. 
He felt a presence far behind him, and he dared not turn around.  If he did, then she would ask whether he'd ever forgotten her over the centuries.  He wasn't sure that he hadn't.  And so, he kept walking across the barren planet, unsure whether he could ever bring himself to return to Earth. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Great Webcomic Catch-Up: June 2016 Update

I've got a plan for this whole webcomic catch-up thing with which I've been struggling.  It comes in a few parts: 
1.  Allocate a specific time every day for reading my caught-up webcomics.  
2.  Re-catch-up on my webcomics with which I had previously caught up. 
3.  Create a "temporary drop-list" of webcomics that I'm finding it difficult to catch up. 

I think that that combination can get me where I want to be, at least to start:  Keeping up on the (majority of) webcomics that I follow, so that I don't end up in this webcomic-free doom-spiral like before. 

P.S.:  I'm pushing this month's bonus update to early July, because June's short and July starts with a long weekend. 

Sudden Short Story 110

He sat in the cafe, staring straight up at the stars as they moved toward the horizon. 
"You come here often," said the girl who sat opposite him. 
"They didn't use to do that," he said. 
"You should watch the sky by the edge," she replied. 
"I'm not going there," he said. 
"Why don't you ever leave Central City?" 
His facade finally crumbled.  "Way back, I don't even remember how long ago, there was this guy.  I burned him.  I burned him real bad.  We were friends, and I ... - He said that he'd throw me off the edge of the Earth if he ever got the chance.  And then he left, and we never spoke again.  And I lived my life, and I figured that he lived his, until they announced this plan to turn the planet into a goddamn spaceship. 
"And he'll do it, too.  I saw that look in his eye.  I knew that he was real mad, but I thought that that promise was his way of staying out of jail.  He'll do it, and I'm staying as far away from the edge as possible." 

Sudden Short Story 109

He awoke as he returned to the Sol system.  He was pleased to find that Earth was still there.  He monitored the readouts, since there was little else to do on his approach.  Then, he received a hail.  He was pleased to discover that they were still prepared to accommodate him, physical body and all. 
He wasn't terribly surprised that none of his friends were still alive, as he'd been away for so very long.
He toured the planet again, to see it in person.  He liked that the beauty had been preserved outside of the urbanized areas.  He noticed that he was meeting a lot of robots, which was fine, since new people were new people, and he had to catch up with life on Earth.  At the third town, though, he asked a sufficiently amicable robot about how many humans were alive on Earth. 
He was surprised to find that there was now  exactly one. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Life Update May 2016

There's not going to be a third post this month.  I was planning to blog last week, actually, but a bit of a crisis came up.  Don't worry, I'm safe, but I'm trying to help some friends of mine in real life, and things have been a bit trying of late.  I was going to write a sudden short story last week, actually, but I really haven't been in the mood for it lately. 
A bit of a clarification on that:  For the past ... few years, really, I've almost never written a sudden short story truly suddenly, usually because I'm far, far away from the keyboard when I think of it, so I jot down a note and actually write the story a bit later.  For instance, I have a sudden short story note written down right now, but I won't be getting to it this week. 
But, yes, expect 4 posts next month, since I'll be making up this month's missed post. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Regarding Battleborn & Overwatch

I mentioned last month that, during this month, I'd talk a bit about the new games that came out:  Battleborn (by Gearbox) and Overwatch (by Blizzard).  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to play either game nearly as much as I'd like, but I think that I can give something of a summary of my impressions of these games. 
In short, Battleborn is better if you're after strategic depth and long play, but Overwatch is better if you're after a more tactical experience and shorter games.  I've also found both games to have noticeable shortcomings.  In Battleborn's case, a typical match is 5v5, but, in the interest of not constantly resetting matchmaking, if someone drops, then the game can continue as 5v4, but the team that's a man down isn't compensated in any way, meaning that they're always fighting at a severe disadvantage.  For Overwatch, it comes back to the character vs. class issue:  While it's possible to play a highlander-equivalent mode in a custom game, custom games require inviting people; quick-play matches have no character limits, and there's no way to quick-join a character-limited match. 
I hope to have deeper reviews at some later point, but that'll have to wait until next month, as I don't have the time right now to play these games enough to do the reviews justice. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Video Game Status for May 2016

Well, I haven't touched Minecraft in ages, but I'll soon be playing 2 upcoming FPSes:  Battleborn and Overwatch.  (The short version of why I got both is:  I pre-ordered Overwatch before I heard about Battleborn.)  This does mean that I'm almost certainly looking at a long hiatus on TF2, since I have 2 different ways to get my shooter fix. 
My life is currently quite disorganized, which is why, when I've played video games, it's been a lot of quickies:  Hearthstone here, Heroes of the Storm there, but never zenning out on Minecraft or attempting FTL again.  I'm getting things organized, but it's tough, so it's still going to be at least a couple of months before I get back into those again. 
That's all for now.  I'll probably report back on the new shooters at the end of May.  ;)

Regarding The Three Indistinguishable Dice Puzzle: Reasoning

In my previous post, I gave my solution to the problem presented here, but I thought that it would be good to show the logic behind how I got the solution that I got. 
In the quest for an elegant solution, I was playing around with various functions over a,b,c.  One that I thought would be a good starting point was max(a,b,c)+min(a,b,c), since it would give a number 2 through 12 and wouldn't be biased upwards or downwards, since the median of a,b,c was what was being ignored.  I noticed that the distribution of results, if triples were ignored, was, indeed, symmetrical around 7, with 6, 7, and 8 occurring too often by multiples of 6, and with 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12 occurring too rarely by multiples of 6.  Of course, on this map, the excess from 6, 7, and 8 was 6 short of the deficit from the rest, but that's made up when we add the triples back in. 
I then looked at the patterns of groups that would result in 6, 7, or 8 and tried to find elegant ways to migrate them to the results that were coming up short.  This was pretty much trial and error, so one thing that I did was aim to end up with a rule saying that three of a kind makes 3, since that would be easy to remember. 
Any set of non-triples a,b,c is either a pair and another digit, which occurs 3 times out of every 216, or three different digits, which occurs 6 times out of every 216, so it was easy to move these things in whole lots of 6, and even to move them in lots of 3.  For instance, the rule that, if max(a,b,c)+min(a,b,c)=7 and a=b or b=c or c=a, then f(a,b,c)=min(a,b,c)+9 actually migrates pair of sets of 3, such as causing f(6,6,1) (or 6,1,6 or 1,6,6) and f(6,1,1) (or 1,6,1 or 1,1,6) to both be 10. 
So, hey, if you want to make a more elegant variation of my solution, mess around with ways to twist a,b,c where 5<max(a,b,c)+min(a,b,c)<9 to give the right number of missing results for 2,3,4,10,11,12 and put the triples somewhere and see if you can make one that uses fewer rules. 
Caveat:  Elegance is a matter of opinion.  I'm pretty sure that what I devised uses the simplest rules (though I could be wrong), so I'd anticipate that the other way to make a more elegant solution would be to have no if conditionals at all, though it probably involves math that's harder to do on the spot.  (I'm almost certain that such a solution would involve modular arithmetic, too, but I haven't actually looked at anyone else's solutions yet.)  So, I'd expect a "more elegant" variant of my solution to get it down to 3 or 2 rules, instead of my current 4. 
OK, have fun with that. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Regarding The Three Indistinguishable Dice Puzzle

Recently, YouTube started recommending videos for me from Standup Math S.  Recently, I saw this video which presented an interesting problem.  Basically, it goes like this:  You roll three indistinguishable dice, to the point that you don't even know the order in which they returned results.  However, you want results as if you'd rolled 2d6.  That means not only that the results range from 2 to 12, but also that they be distributed like 2d6, i.e., that the odds of getting 3 be twice the odds of getting 2, that the odds of getting 4 be the same as the odds of getting 2 or 3, etc.  It's clearly possible with a lookup table, but the asker seeks a more elegant solution.

Last Friday at lunch, I came up with a fairly elegant solution, but I've been pretty busy, so I haven't gotten a chance to post it until now.  Here it is:

Let a, b, c represent the results of the dice, each an integer 1-6 inclusive, in any order.

f(a,b,c) =
  • if a=b=c
    • 3
  • if a=b or b=c or c=a and max(a,b,c)+min(a,b,c)=7
    • min(a,b,c) +9
  • a≠b≠c≠a and either a=2i, b=2j, c=2k or a=2i+1, b=2j+1, c=2k+1, where i,j,k∈ℤ
    • 2min(a,b,c)
  • otherwise
    • max(a,b,c) + min(a,b,c)
In layman's terms:
  • If you get triples, then the answer is 3.  
  • If you get doubles where low+high=7, then the answer is low+9 (a.k.a. high+low+low+2).  
  • If you get all 3 even numbers or all 3 odd numbers, then the answer is 2*low.  
  • Otherwise, add the highest and lowest numbers.  
I think that this solution is fairly elegant, even though it's in the form of 4 branches, because it's something easily understood (it doesn't even require exponents or modular arithmetic, let alone anything actually complicated) and 2 of the 3 non-main branches (triples and jumping straights) are fairly rare, all 4 branches are easy to solve, and there's some work overlap:  If you see doubles and add high+low to see if they're 7, if they're not, then you already did the math for your final answer.

And yes, I know that this is terribly informal and I didn't dig up all of the math symbols, but it's been a while since I did serious math, so I'm a bit rusty. 

EDIT 2016/Apr/30:  discovered and removed a touch of redundant text:  I had parenthetically said, in "if a=b or b=c or c=a and max(a,b,c)+min(a,b,c)=7", "(but not a=b=c)", but the max and the min would have different parity, so, duh.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sudden Short Story 108

The girl unexpectedly hugged the boy, who himself pretended to be a girl, and he giggled at the jest. 
"What's this for?" he asked. 
She leaned in close and whispered, "I figured out that you're a boy." 
His first reaction was to jump away, but she held him tight. 
"I can't be a boy," he pleaded.  "Boys are mean, and I'm not mean." 
"I figured it out, though," she said.  "There's something about you that seems different, something that I like....  I realized it after I drank from the fountain of wisdom." 
He struggled with her, but she just held on tight.  "The fountain of wisdom is corrupted and broken," he said, "No one's supposed to drink from it!" 
"And I wanted to know why," she said.  "It all made so much sense afterward, too.  We live forever because we drink from the fountain of youth, but we've forgotten more than we can remember.  Even I don't know where everyone went, and I don't intend to find out.  The grown-ups have been gone for a very long time, and so have the boys.
"But," she whispered again, "now I have a boy of my very own."
And he wondered if she would ever let him go.  

Sudden Short Story 107

The giant's work was almost complete.  His people he carried to their new home, but they did not recognize him as their own.  He was so colossal and so ancient that they had no idea that he was younger than some of their ancestors.  Even he had lost track of their genealogy.  Did any of his friends have descendants here?  Even he did not know, and the internet was long gone.  
He told them to go on ahead, past the first river that they saw, and to stay there until another met them there.  They were reluctant to leave, but they did so, anyway. 
This world was maintained partly by the giant's continuous thoughts, which were so integrated that he could not separate them without also separating part of himself.  He could not stop thinking the thoughts that he had to think to prevent entropy from ruining this place.  He also could not join them as his gigantic self, forever growing.  So, he gave up part of himself.  He petrified his body to protect his nervous system, forming a small mountain with his arched form, his open mouth a cave hidden between his elbows.  He created a body inside of himself from what could be spared of his organic parts.  Then, he reconfigured his nervous system, leaving behind his enthropic thought-patterns and the parts of himself that he could not extricate from them. 
From the mouth-cave emerged a new man, yet the oldest man still alive, and he headed toward the river, to join the rest of humanity. 

Sudden Short Story 106

"So," said one to the other, as they were out on an afternoon stroll, "what made you choose the 1990s planet, anyway?" 
He thought for a moment, to summarize his thoughts, and then said, "I suppose that the main thing was TV.  The broadcast experience adds just the right amount of chaos:  I surf to browse a random subset of what's there, and then pick from that.  If I like a series, I actually have to wait for the next episode, so I can experience boredom, which was a feeling that I'd lost on Earth." 
"That seems fair.  I kind of like the TV, too, though I'm more intrigued by what they do with the effects cap.  That's gotten us some real creativity over the years." 

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Brief Thought about 5G

While every now and again people keep trying to encourage the idea of the "internet of things," I have another notion as to what will happen there.  I think that many of these peripherals - specifically, household and personal effects - will be merged into the return of the PAN.  Whether anyone actually calls it a Personal Area Network is irrelevant - though I suspect that the term will be avoided because it will ring in the minds of some as old tech, which, for the sake of marketing, is automatically bad. 
Improvements in battery life are usually cancelled out by expectations by hardware and software makers of more battery power to consume, but I think that wireless earbuds could become a thing, since there's a practical upper limit to what an ear-scaled speaker need to do. 
Fitbit and other biometric monitoring devices seem to have a niche. 
Smart watches will become practical if they can get their price down below 25% of their paired phone (as opposed to their current ~100%). 
While it might be nice to adjust your thermostat without getting up, do you really need to be able to do it from work?  Maybe that's not the best example, but how many household items are they trying to make internet-capable when you really don't need to be able to use them from more than 3 meters past your front door? 
Oh, and they're trying to make keyless entry an app on your phone, so there's that. 
So yeah, don't think of it as an internet of things.  Think of 5G as the return of the PAN. 

Sudden Short Story 105

"It's quite cosmopolitan, don't you think?" he asked her, as they both looked around. 
"It's almost like a marketplace, but without the scarcity," she replied. 
So many races were here that it was hard to decide with whom to interact first.  There were even pattern-beings propagating themselves along the walls! 
The couple wandered through the area, looking around excitedly, until he felt her tug on his hand. 
"I'm sorry," she said as he turned around.  Starting with her left eye, she began to turn to stone.  "Despite my training, I thought of that place, all those star-ages ago." 
He embraced her suddenly, then pulled back to look into her eyes.  One last tear ran out of his left eye as he, too, began to turn to stone.  "It was called Earth." 
"Why did you think of it, too?" she asked.  "You could have made it."  Those were her final words, as the left half of her face turned to stone, and it raced down her left half. 
"What would have been the point of that?  Now, neither of us has to be alone.  I just hope that someone thinks to preserve the statues that once were the last humans." 
Stone raced down his left, too, and finally crossed her line of symmetry.  They positioned what parts of themselves they could carefully, so that they stood stably, and so that they would hold each other forever. 
Her last sight was of his stone left eye, and his of hers. 

Sudden Short Story 104

He and his opponent were playing a deckbuilder this time.  There came a time when they both had their decks in their shufflers, and he asked, "Do you suppose, in hindsight, that it was wrong of me to make you?" 
"How do you mean?" it replied. 
"Well, I created an artificial general intelligence for the purpose of being my opponent in games, but now it's self-aware.  Is it right to create sentience for such a purpose?  Or for any purpose?" 
It reached for its deck, but seemed to move more slowly as it processed these questions of ethics.  "I suppose," it replied, "that, as long as you did not intend to create sentience, then the only question is whether you should have been more cautious about what you were doing, to avoid creating sentience.  I am, after all, the only known sentient to have such a sense of purpose."  After a pause, it asked, "Is it bad to not have to have sought it myself?  Or is it good to not have the risk of squandering my entire existence seeking purpose, as so many of your people once did?" 
"You raise good questions," he replied.  He thought for a moment, shuffling idly, even though the shuffler had done that job for him.  "When you find out, let me know." 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sudden Short Story 103

She gave a quick knock and slipped into his office.  He was wrapping up some old-fashioned paperwork. 
"Hi~," she almost sang as she entered. 
"Oh, hi, sweetie," he replied, and looked at his monitor.  He gathered his papers and bent behind the desk, to file them into the lower drawer, as he said, "Sorry, normally Paul sends me a message when you're on your way up." 
"I happened to catch Brian on his way back in," she began. 
He shot up like a bolt, just as Brian put the knife to her throat. 
"Away from the desk," Brian ordered, "Hands where I can see them.  We're going to do this slowly, so that there's no funny business.  Grab your monitor by the top and face it this way." 
"Brian, look at me," he said.  They saw each other, eye-to-eye, and that was all that he needed.  The room seemed to darken as a feeling of dread swept over everyone present.  But especially Brian.  Most especially Brian.
The feeling lifted, but Brian inexplicably threw the knife away, which slid under the couch.  He bolted for the door, but recoiled.  She went to her husband and clung to him.  He held his wife, to reassure her. 
"W-What's going--" Brian began.
"Your fillings," came the simple reply.
Eyes visibly widened with dawning terror, the would-be assassin grabbed at the insides of his own mouth with his hands, which muffled his emerging screams.
"Honey," she said, trembling, seeming to look over her shoulder, but with her eyes closed, "what just happened?"
"Brian was let go this morning.  I'm sorry, sweetie.  In the future, I'll see to it that terminated employees are escorted off of the premises, not just out of the building." 
"No, I mean... What did you do to him?  How?" 
"Well," he began, somewhat awkwardly, still trying to comfort her despite the scene mere feet from them "you remember how you married me for my intelligence, right?  Well, I realized that, usually, when people are said to sell their soul, it's just a metaphor for the loss of one's soul, when one profoundly compromises one's ethics.  So, it's not exactly like a financial exchange.  But, since I was going to take to your religion, I was going to make such a compromise.  To minimize my loss, I sold my soul beforehand, to get this power.  As for Brian, I made him deathly afraid of metal." 
"You... You... sold your soul?" she asked in disbelief, despite ostensibly believing in the existence of souls and the ability to ... lose them?  She wasn't sure anymore. 
"Of course, sweetie," he replied, still holding her, "I'd do anything for you." 
And her trembling only worsened. 

Sudden Short Story 102

Anderson took his box of lollipops off the counter and walked away. 
"Have a nice day," said the clerk, but Anderson wasn't interested in exchanging any pleasantries with him or his ilk. 
As he walked out, he opened the box to take out a lollipop.  He passed by someone who was walking the opposite way, and idly commented, "Can you believe that they put these things in boxes now?" 
"Yes, why?" came the reply. 
While it might have been someone who was smugly taking his question literally in an attempt to seem witty, the question of "why" was unlikely, and the tone was too... kind
Anderson ignored the response and kept walking.  No matter where he went, it was all well-skinned androids these days.  He didn't like them, considering each a walking, talking lie.  He unwrapped his lollipop - the one candy that he allowed himself these days - and he suddenly stopped.  It wasn't just today, or the past week, or the past month.  Was it even in the past year?  When was the last time that he'd come across another human being. 
Anderson walked more slowly the rest of the way, wondering whether there were any other real humans left.  It had been so long. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Self-Referential Number

Recently, singingbanana (who goes by @jamesgrime on twitter) actually managed to post a video.  In this case, it was a puzzle.  The quest is to find a self-referential number, defined as a 10-digit number (implied to be in base 10) where the 1st digit says how many digits in the number are '0', the 2nd digit says how many digits in the number are '1', and so on.
You might want to try this problem yourself, so consider this your spoiler warning.  
Spoilers follow.

The answer that I found was 6,210,001,000.  I suspect that this is the only solution, but I haven't proven that yet.  Maybe later.
I defined each digit with a letter, such that the number will be a,bcd,efg,hij.  Since the number has 10 digits, a+b+c+d+e+f+g+h+i+j=10.
Then, I put limits on how high each digit could be, just using itself and how many of its thing it represents.  For instance, a<=10 (even though 10's not a digit), because 10+10*0<=10.  Similarly, b<=5 because 5+5*1<=10, and c<=3 because 3+3*2<=10.
Basically, there can't be more than 1 of anything that counts 5s or larger, because having 2 of the thing that it counts (I probably should have come up with symbology for that) would be at least 10, and adding the counter then exceeds 10.
This also applies to the collection, though, so f+g+h+i+j<=1.
This also means that there are at least 4 0s, so 4<=a<=9.
If e=1, then e+4=5, so that would also force f through j to be 0.  Thus, e+f+g+h+i+j<=1.
This means that there are at least 5 0s, so 5<=a<=9.
Since a>4, it follows that some member of {f,g,h,i,j} is at least 1, and thus exactly 1.  This also means that e=0, so there are no 4s in this number.
Since there's at least one 1, b>=1.
If b were to be 1, though, then there would be at least two 1s, forcing b to be at least 2.  This would cause a problem for b, but wait, there's a 2, so c>=1.
Suppose that c=1 and b=2.  Using X as a placeholder for a, the number looks like this:
where only 1 of those [01]s is actually a 1, and the rest 0.  
I don't see any 3s, so suppose that d=3.  We now know that there are 6 0s.  Thus, a=6.
Since there's one 6, g=1.  This gives us:


P.S.:  The writing on this is a bit sloppy, but I'm using  plain text and I'm in a hurry.  I might edit this later for formality. 

UPDATE 2016/Jan/13:  So, the morning after I posted this (so the 8th), I thought of a proof that a<7.  And now I have a spare moment!  :D 

Assume that a > 6.  Then, hij=001, 010, or 100.  Then, b>0.
b=1 and (h=1 xor i=1 xor j=1) ==> b>1 ==> c>0 or d>0.  (See above that e+f+g+h+i+j <=1.) 
Since a≠0, b≠0, c≠0, and 1 of h, 1, or j ≠0, there are at least 4 non-0 digits, so there are no more than six 0 digits.  Thus, a, the number of 0 digits, cannot exceed 6.