Friday, February 03, 2006

fictimeric and fictimetric sequences

Spacemonkey has a post presenting the mathematical sequence
4 8 15 16 23 42
This is the first six letters of the fictimeric sequence beginning with 4. The fictimeric sequence beginning with n is defined as n, 2n, 4n-1, 4n, 6n-1, followed by the fictimeric sequence for 11n-2. In a comment, I gave the last term incorrectly as 13n-1, obviously not because I can't multiply but because I was temporarily confusing the fictimeric sequence with the fictimetric sequence.

The fictimetric sequence is the sequence formed by the fictimetric operator used to measure fictionerous spaces. The function fict(n) is defined as follows:
fict(1) = 1
fict(n) = 2n-1 (n prime)
fict(n) = 3n-1 (n even and n/2 prime)
fict(n) = 5n-1 (n mod 3 = 0 and n/3 prime)
fict(n) = 7n-1 (n mod 5 = 0 and n/5 prime)
fict(n) = 11n-1 (n mod 7 = 0 and n/7 prime)
fict(n) = 13n-1 (otherwise)
The theory of fictionerous spaces and fictimetric and fictimeric numbers is a fairly recent development in number theory, being only about ten minutes old. It was developed in order to explain peculiar numerical postings on certain simian weblogs and to justify errors that various mathematically-inclined people might have made in the comments to such postings.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

not getting it

Some people just don't have the capacity to make fine distinctions in their own thoughts. I put up for evidence this list of the 100 Best First Lines from Novels (link from Dean's World). Although this list contains some great first lines, there are also a lot of very ordinary first lines from famous books. It is clear that a lot of people just can't grasp the distinction between "great first line of a book" and "first line of a great book".

The top four are all terrific lines:
1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
but check out number five:
5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
How many hundreds of dirty stories have begun with nearly identical lines? And many of them no doubt predated Lolita; a great line this is not. Number six is a good one again, and then we have this literary fart:
7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
That's the kind of opening line that makes most people put a book back on the shelf and continue browsing. But James Joyce is a Literary Genius and Finnegan's Wake is one of the evidences of his genius, so people with no powers of objective evaluation voted for that stinker of a first line as one of the best. Joyce gets another unwarranted entry later on
21. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. —James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
This one is not a bad first line, but it is certainly not up there with the greatest. Samuel Becket gets a similar obligatory entry
32. Where now? Who now? When now? —Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953; trans. Patrick Bowles)
That line is just lame. Here are two more together:
36. —Money . . . in a voice that rustled. —William Gaddis, J R (1975)

37. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
The first is just incoherent and the second is boring. Neither one makes me want to continue reading.

I recall another list I saw once, a list of the most beautiful English words. The rules specifically said that you are supposed to ignore what the word means, yet the highest rated word was "love". I mean, come on. Yeah, yeah, lots of people get all doe-eyed at the word love, especially chicks, but a beautiful word it is not. If "love" is a beautiful word, then so should be similar words like "shove", "above", "lug", "luff" or "vowel", but I can guarantee that none of those words made it into consideration.

Considerations like these lists (and political sites like the Daily Kos) persuade me that a lot of people just do not have the mental capacity to draw distinctions in their emotions and motivations. They think in terms of bare good and bad, with no subtleties of "good in this way" and "bad in this other way".

irony in the real world

Monday Evening points out some impressive (and un-noted) irony from the BBC.

Monday, January 30, 2006