(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.