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Monday, April 30, 2018

Mental Exercise

I figured out why I don't do any web programming: it's not that interesting, at least not from a puzzle solving point of view. Putting up a web page mostly involves displaying a bunch of data. You might also want to collect some data from the user which you will pack up and send to the host, but it's all pretty straight forward. Now it might get a bit gnarly when you have to interact with complex data base system residing on the server, but that's mostly a matter of minding your p'q and q's in the protocol you use. Once you have a web page up, things could get a little complicated, but it takes a bit of work to get to that point.

I enjoy working on the programming puzzles on Coding Games because all that boring display stuff is cut out of the problem. On the downside, they ask that you don't publicize your solutions because their main purpose (aside from keeping me entertained) is to screen people as candidates for companies that want to hire programmers. Since the world is full of people who would be willing to pass off somebody else's work as their own, and I am opposed to that sort of thing, I keep my Coding Game solutions to myself.

When a puzzle shows up out in the real world that lends itself to being solved with a computer program, I am very happy. Plus I am free to share the results of my genius / obsession with the world.


The 10,958 Problem - Numberphile


I came across this video from Numberphile the other day talking about using a sequence of digits in a mathematical expression and then by changing the operators between the digits you could end up with pretty much any number you wanted. For instance:
1 + 2 + 3 = 6
1 - 2 + 3 = 2
1 x 2 + 3 = 5
1 + 2 x 3 = 9
Some whiz kid who didn't have anything else to do compiled a list of expressions for all the numbers up to 11,111. He found an expression for every number except 10,958.

Not too long ago I wrote a program to solve a Coding Game puzzle that involved computing the value for some simple expressions, so that gets me to thinking that I could write a program to generate all possible expressions using the same sequence of numbers and see if I can find one that will produce 10,958. If I do, well, yahoo! But if I don't, well at least I'll have some confirmation of this guys results. I'm working on that. I'll let you know how it turns out. Assuming I get that far.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the video, Matt Parker writes the expressions for some random numbers. How did he do that? Does he have some rule he follows that allows him to do this? No. He did it by memorizing and first one thousand expressions. Okay then. That is not something that interests me in the least. Matter of fact, it sounds downright painful. But it takes all kinds to make the world go round, so if that's how Matt wants to spend his time, well fine, go ahead on.

This memorization bit reminds me of a penance doled out to inmates of the cloister in Anathem by Neal Stevenson. If an inmate was found guilty of an infraction, the penance was to memorize a number of pages of a book that contained a zillion digits of pi. Minor infractions might be punished with memorizing a single page, but more severe infractions, or repeat offenders might be assigned entire chapters. I suppose there might be a feeling of accomplishment in being able to complete the assigned memorization, but it sounds awful to me.

There was also a show I saw once, it might have been an episode of The Twilight Zone, or maybe the tail end of Fahrenheit 451. In any case, the society had banned books, so a small group of dissidents had formed their own community. They lived in some shacks along a river, kind of reminded me of Tom Cruise's place in Oblivion. Anyway, their whole thing was memorizing books. Each person would memorize a book, and then they would teach their children the book and so the knowledge would be maintained without having to resort to the actual printed copy.

While we are on the subject of memorization, it recently occurred to me that merely having a pretty face and showing up (per Woody Allen) are not really enough to be an actor. Memorizing your lines and then being able to repeat them is a prime skill.

'Hitting your marks' is another one. That is, walk where you are supposed to walk, when you are supposed to. When shooting a scene, you need people to be in certain places so the audience will be able to see what is going on. Okay, this is a non-sequitur but I came across the phrase recently and it stuck with me. And since I am talking about actors, I thought I'd throw it in.

Being a successful actor might bring great financial rewards, which can bring great freedom, getting there is going to be a lot of work. Some people have talents that lie in that direction, and that's good. They keep us entertained. Like I said, it takes all kinds to make the world go round.


One last word about books. We accumulated a number of books while the kids were growing up, but now they are gone and we are in material reduction mode, so a couple of weeks ago I started hauling them off to Powell's a couple of grocery bags at a time. I took a total of eight bags of books there. They bought maybe 6, 6 books for which I got about $20 in store credit. I hauled the rejects home and this weekend we had a garage sale. Out of maybe 200 books we sold about 10. We ended up taking the rest to Goodwill.

There are novels that are entertaining and you might read them once and once you have forgotten the story you might read them again. You might run into a few books that you will want to read again. There aren't too many of those. Most books aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Comes from paper being so cheap I suppose.

1 comment:

Ole Phat Stu said...

"Most books aren't worth the paper they are printed on."

Sounds like something I wrote ;-)