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October 1st, 2004

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12:13 am - Go figure
Went out for an aptitude test for a job at the local power station yesterday. It's not quite Homer Simpson-esque; it involves taking the power that the station produces and selling it on various markets. I did well enough to be called back for interview on October 6th, so time to prepare for that. Networking time: does anyone have any contacts in the electricity market that I might call to discuss the market with them just by way of learning about the industry, please?

(As a sidenote, I'm also going to an interview with a tech support call centre job at a local ISP tomorrow. I'm 95% sure that it's the same job that I applied for this time last year - that time, I rather shot myself in the foot by declaring I was "not a people person". I shall not make the same mistake again. Despite what I said last year, I would take the job if offered it this year. Either way, it's good practice for the interview next Wednesday.)

I shall probably not tell them at the interview that upon leaving for the aptitude test I promptly managed to lock myself out of the house. Whoops. Go into town but not to catch a bus to the power station as planned, but instead to go to the police station to find a locksmith. Call out the locksmith, he drills our old lock out, worryingly quickly and easily, and installs a new one. £7 for the lock - almost worryingly little, but spending more for one that couldn't be drilled probably wouldn't be worthwhile when I suspect I am far more likely to need to have the lock drilled out myself than a burglar would be to do so to break in - £35 for the labour, £7 for a taxi to get me to the aptitude test on time. Ouch. Still, I got there and got through, so that's the main thing.

The locksmith recommended keeping a house key in my wallet so that I would never forget it again. I have a suspicion that that just transfers the burden to "not losing my wallet", on the grounds that a key plus an address that can reasonably easily be deduced from the cards in the wallet would be a particularly bad combination of things to lose. Advice most welcome.

Interesting new word I heard the other day: brontobyte. The childish fascination for what big numbers are called (thousand, million, billion, trillion, quadrillion and so on) easily translates into a fascination for SI prefixes; for a long time I thought the sequence went kilo- (103 or 1,000x), mega- (106 or 1,000,000x), giga- (109 or 1,000,000,000x), tera- (1012), peta- (1015), exa- (1018) and stopped, but not long ago I heard of zetta- (1021) and yotta- (1024). Supposedly bronto- is the next in the series, for (1027), but this sounds, well, fishy to me, not to say "lizardy". ("Thundery", I suppose.)

The larger SI prefixes all have a neat but slightly strained connection to the number of ,000s in the series: tera has four sets of ,000s and is clearly derived from tessera, the English transcription of the Greek for the number four; peta has five sets of ,000s and is clearly derived from pente, the English transcription of the Greek for the number five; exa from exi for six, zetta from epta for seven and yotta from okto for eight. I would expect the 1027 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x prefix to be something like ennea (Greek for nine) but with a letter at the start that isn't used elsewhere in SI. Bronto doesn't fit the pattern, so it doesn't look legit to me.

Has anyone seen derived binary prefixes pertaining to zetta- and yotta- yet? The counterpart series for powers of 1,024 as opposed to 1,000 officially goes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, tebi-, pebi- and exbi-, but I haven't heard it confirmed that it then goes (I would guess) zebi- for 270 and yobi- for 280. Brobi for 290 is right out.

I can now do my long-threatened rant calling for the abolition of the thousand. The link between "number of ,000"s and "number in Greek for SI prefix" is pretty clearly established, as above. However, the English names for these large numbers tries to do something similar for Latin, but because of the existence of the thousand, it gets it wrong. This pisses me off, just a tiny little bit.

I say we abolish the thousand and devalue all other number names by a factor of a thousand. So 1 is one, 10 is ten, 100 is one hundred, 1,000 is one million, 10,000 is ten million, 100,000 is a hundred million, 1,000,000 is a billion, 1,000,000,000 is a trillion, 1,000,000,000,000 is a quadrillion and so forth. Same sort of link: the prefix derived from the Latin for two is bi-, hence a number with two ,000s is a bi- llion; the prefix derived from the Latin for three is tri-, hence a number with three ,000s is a tri- llion, four is more or less quadri so a number with four ,000s is a quadrillion and so on. beingjdc has said he will become dictator of the world by the summer of 2009 at latest, so consider this an early petition for a more logical reform of the number system as an early decree, O just and righteous leader.

Anyway, what this is leading up to is that I found an interesting article on the Indian numbering system on Wikipedia. They count thousands, but then higher units are multiplied by 100 rather than 1000 - so they write numbers (and have number names) for 1,00,000 , 1,00,00,000 , 1,00,00,00,000 and so forth: 1,00,000 is a word transliterated as lakh, 1,00,00,000 is likewise a crore, 1,00,00,00,000 is apparently an arab and so forth.

I have only really encountered this on English-language Indian news pages, but it's also interesting to note the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, called Kaun Banega Crorepati. A crore of rupees is a moderately hard-to-imagine sum of money in India, perhaps comparable in impact to three or five million (major Western currency units). The host, Amitabh Bachchan, "the Big B", is a Bollywood legend. Doubt you'll encounter the concept of a crore otherwise.

Now we might point to our factors-of-1,000 regularity and feel superior, but it's interesting that we say two or ten but we say two hundred and it takes us two words. Perhaps the English language version of our own number system is more like 1, 0,00, 0,00, 0,00, 0,00 and so forth than we realise. (We always separate out the hundreds when pronouncing every three-digit number.) I guess it's just because we have convenient shorthand: 10 is ten, 20 is twenty rather than "two tens", 30 is thirty rather than "three tens" and so on. There was a UK kids' maths TV show which taught 10, 20, 30 and so on as onety, twoty, threety, fo(u)rty, fivety, sixty and so on; this is at least logical and forgivable, even if wrong. Perhaps we just need new words like "onehun", "twohun", "threehun" and so forth, so 864 might be eighthun sixty four. (Thank you for not getting me started again on the difference between US and UK three-digit numbers.)

The real reason I like the Indian numbering system is it permits one bad pun. While Australia may have many times more sheep than human beings, it cannot produce even one shank of lamb.

ETA: via adrienneblack, the silliest flash mob I can remember hearing of. London, early evening of Wednesday 6th October. Up there with the Circle Line Party, I'd say.
Current Mood: geekygeeky

(19 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC)


When I get dressed in the morning my keys go into my trouser pocket. Always. I check that they're still there when leaving the house or work, but they always are; this is just paranoia.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 04:37 pm (UTC)
About keys - how about a fake rock? I don't know if you guys have them over there, but they're these hollowed out fake plastic things that look like rocks, and you can put a key inside it and close it up and put it near a bush or tree outside the door, in the back garden, whatever. Since it looks like a rock, it's unlikely to be disturbed. If they don't have them in England, Meg can get you one here I'm sure.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 04:56 pm (UTC)
If you have more than one key needed (as in two locks on the door), you could hide a copy of one as suggested, and keep a copy of the other in your wallet.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC)
Good idea! In practice, I think I'm going to drop one of the keys off with trusted friends. It might be that we had dropped a key off with one particular trusted friend and I could have bypassed the need to change the locks, but when I called on said trusted friend on the off-chance, long before getting the locksmith, they were out. Boo.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 04:53 pm (UTC)
I agree: Known address + extra key = bad combination.

Is there somewhere on the grounds that you could hide a spare inconspicuously? I know people that have that sort of setup. (Just not under the mat.)

I'm real obsessive about making sure I know the whereabouts of my keys at all times.
Date:September 30th, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC)
>but not long ago I heard of zetta- (1021) and yotta- (1024).

Everybody say... YOTTA!

I like Indian numbers: myriad, lakh, crore, chiliad, dansak, jalfrezi...
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 05:23 pm (UTC)


A good fifteen seconds of uncontrollable laughter, there.

Date:September 30th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
I say we abolish the thousand and devalue all other number names by a factor of a thousand.

In similar vein, we need some calendar reform. Given their names, September to December are clearly intended to be months 7 - 10, and the simplest way of achieving that would be to relocate New Year's Day to 1st March. What say the panel?

Alternatively, just abolishing January and February would work too.

Keys. To a large extent we're in the same boat, insofar as it *almost* never matters whether we go out without keys as we're not leaving the house empty. Makes it easier to get caught out on the occasions when you are. It's really just a question of making it a habit to check keys as you leave the house every single time - it takes a few days to get it ingrained, but once it's there, it's THERE.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
Years starting in March: are you, in fact, Roman, Erickus Lendlus? (An alternative source suggests the Romans picked what we now know as March 25th rather than March 1st, but it's a load of ides or calens or t'other one to me.)

I'm good at checking for keys when I go out, which is why I discovered the missing keys so soon. I'm just not yet so good at remembering to check before I leave the house and close the door.
Date:September 30th, 2004 06:12 pm (UTC)
Vidi, vici, veni as they say, although not necessarily in that order. I just don't feel that it's right and proper to celebrate the festival of Janus... notwithstanding the whole wrongness of Dec being linked to 12.

Moving from a Yale-type lock to one that you can't lock without the key is always an option - though not a particularly cheap one.
Date:October 1st, 2004 03:25 am (UTC)

Calendars and Big Horkin' Numbers

Two topics I love. :)

The ancient Roman calendar actually had ten months with September through December as seventh through tenth months. Then they figured out that the months completely did not match the solar year, and Julius and Augustus Caesar got a pair of 31 day months.

On a strange note, I find that I'm writing the date as 30-September rather than the American way. I suspect it's partly from my trip to London, but also I like the specific to general way the date is written.

Second side note, one of my favorite $1m questions EVER from our version of Millionaire asked what the Julian new year was. I know two people with 25-March birthdays, and promptly wish them happy new year on the appropriate day.

I *think* there's a prefix 'yocta' and 'yocto', and they come after yotta. But at this point we're smaller than protons, and larger than galaxies, so make of that what you will.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)

Re: Calendars and Big Horkin' Numbers

No two people seem to agree on how the Roman calendar developed. However, it appears that:
  • the Roman calendar originally had ten months, March through to December, with the fifth and sixth months named Quintillis and Sextillis.
  • At around 700BC, January and February were added, but the year probably still began in March.
  • There is some indication that the start of the year was moved to January by Tarquinius Priscus in the sixth century BC because it contained the festival of the god of gates, but this reform was dropped when the dynasty was overthrown.
  • When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46BC he chose January first as the beginning of the year.
  • The Roman Senate renamed Quintillis to July in Caesar's honour, but he was only able to enjoy his own month once before he was assassinated. Later, the Senate also renamed Sextillis to August in honour of his successor.
  • The traditional story has it that when August was renamed it was also extended by one day stolen from February in order to satisfy the vanity of Augustus. However, modern scholars seem to discredit this story - apart from anything else, it would have involved changing the lengths of six of the months.
Date:October 1st, 2004 01:31 am (UTC)
We could just prefix with Do-. OK, only Dodecember makes sense really, but I'm certianly going to use that.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2004 05:51 pm (UTC)
You are a complete and total dork. But I love you anyways (because of it?)...

The key situation reminds me of the time when Mama locked herself out of the car in Athens, suddenly realized that I had the extra key, and then just as suddenly realized that I lived 1,200 miles away. Oops.
Date:October 1st, 2004 01:29 am (UTC)
Something like http://www.toolstation.com/search.html?searchstr=18917 hidden around the back of the house turned out to be the solution for Mrs Socks' habit of forgetting her keys. Just need to get her to remember to put the spare set back in the box and not just leave them on the hall shelves now!
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 02:39 am (UTC)
See, this is why I despise Yale locks and their ilk - any kind of lock which allows you lock it by just closing the door. If you have to use a key to lock the door as you leave, then it's much harder to lock yourself out (you can, of course, still lose the key...)

Anyway, numbers. I'm pretty sure that bronto is made up - I've certainly come across all the other many times before, but never heard of that one. Oh, and rather that dropping the thousand, we should just make everyone use the British syetmen where a billion is a million million.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 02:43 am (UTC)
I wish you luck with the jobs, but really you're making your own luck by getting round to applying.

This MOST WANTED TERRORISTS poster from Pakistan shows rewards of 50 lakh, 1 crore and 2 crore of rupees.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 07:49 am (UTC)
However, the English names for these large numbers tries to do something similar for Latin, but because of the existence of the thousand, it gets it wrong.

As Mark says, the English system doesn't get it wrong - it just counts in ,000,000s rather than in ,000s. It's the American system which gets it wrong.

I guess I could be persuaded to write KiB to distinguish it from the kind of kB which means 1,000 bytes… but I refuse to ever say "kibibyte" - it's just silly.
Date:October 1st, 2004 11:58 am (UTC)
1) You rock, sir. Good luck with the interviewen.

2) The lock problem sounds more like a design fault than a user fault. A sensible lock design would make it impossible (or darned difficult) to lock the door without the use of an appropriate locking device.

3) The first Google search result for exabyte petabyte contains the seeming official list of expansions. I may or may not have mentioned Language Log at some point in the past, and I'm going to mention it here for obvious reasons. And because it kills an internet myth that's out by only about 8000-fold.

It's hard to tell what was the top hit for the mythical Bronto-byte before the BBC article, but this looks a likely candidate.

Perhaps the confusion arises from the oldest non-trivial use of Bronto-byte on Usenet from 1997: "Then there's the Brontobyte - always the next order of magnitude beyond
the largest defined by standards."

So much for the BBC's editorial checking - they've been had by a seven year old joke!

Maybe we need to start a new movement now to have the ennabyte and enbibyte become common currency. Though given that one enbibyte would contain the entirety of human speech roughly 40,000 times over...

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