# Category Archives: Basics

## Secret Code III

I’ve been enjoying science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer. I wrote about the first three books I read in the previous post. Just after writing that post, I finished a fourth book, Triggers (2012), a present-day political thriller involving accidentally linked minds — one of which belongs to the POTUS.

I liked the story quite a bit, some of it so much I’m inclined to give it a Wow! rating. It was fun, and it presents some tasty food for thought. And I don’t intend to get much into any of that.

Instead, this is about a simple secret code used in the book. It was new to me, and I found it clever, so I thought I’d dash off a quick post about it.

## “For the Third Time…”

First there was On the Count of Three, which introduced the fundamental notion of triples. There was actually a prequel of sorts years before — very appropriately a trifecta challenge — about the actual Count of Three and his rabbit fur cloak).

Then came the sequel, Three-peat, which explored the world of triples in more detail. That world spans the gamut from witches to transistors to music theory. (Triples cover a lot of ground!)

Now, at last, the exciting final post of the trilogy! Will the three heroes finally find the three keys, defeat the three dragons, and save the Three Kingdoms?

## Beer Space

Lately, I’ve been writing a number of posts about quantum mechanics, a field where coordinate spaces play a big role. One of my earliest posts on this blog was about applying coordinate space concepts to real life, a thread I picked again up last year.

Long ago I introduced my buddy (I call him “Scott” here), who is also an aficionado of good beer, to the concept of beer space. I’ve mentioned it here once or twice in passing, and I have notes about it that date back to 2011 when I started this blog.

So it seems high time I actually wrote a post about beer space.

## Irreducible Concepts

Hard to define…

It’s very easy for discussions to get hung up on definitions, so a serious approach to debating a subject begins with synchronizing everyone’s vocabulary watches. Accurate and nuanced communication requires mutually understood ideas and terminology for expressing those ideas.

Yet some concepts seem almost impossible to define clearly. The idea of “consciousness” is notorious for being a definition challenge, but “morality” or “justice” or “love” are also very difficult to pin down. At the same time, we seem to share mutual basic intuitions of these things.

So the question today is: why are some concepts so hard to define?

## Quality vs Taste

I’ve written about configuration spaces before. I plan to use the notion in some upcoming posts, so this seems like a good time for a refresher. (If you’re new to the idea, I recommend that you read at least the first post in the series. The third one might be a helpful read, too.)

Today I’ll talk about a configuration space where the axes consist of personal taste and objective quality. Which obviously implies there is such a thing as objective quality. I think there is, and I’ll try to make a case for it. (Certainly production quality offers objective metrics.)

Of course, as everyone knows, there is no accounting of personal taste.

## Pickles in Beer? Oh, hell no!

Maybe you saw the article about putting a pickle in a (cheap) beer to make the beer taste — so we are told — much better. I’ve read three articles now recommending it. To be frank, the idea utterly horrifies me, mainly because I can’t stand pickles. Also because I love beer.

However, human tastes in foods and beverages span a vast range. I suspect very few people like everything that gets put on the worldwide table. (Despite my Norwegian upbringing, I wouldn’t touch lutefisk with a ten-foot pole. It’s up there with pickles on the list of stuff I Will Not Eat.)

But apparently some love a pickle in their beer.

## Black Lives Matter — Triton Station

I don’t normally reblog, but I’m still trying to find my voice on this, and I thought this post very well expressed many of the things I’m feeling. I’ll get out of the way and let you read it.

I started this blog as a place to discuss science, and have refrained from discussing overtly political matters. This is no longer possible. Today is June 10, 2020 – the date set to strike for black lives. I want to contribute in a tiny way by writing here. If that seems inappropriate to you or […]

Black Lives Matter.

## Capable of Greatness

I’ve been slowly going through the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Most of the musicians and groups are unknown to me (it’s been decades since I even attempted to keep up with music). Truth is, most of the acts are interesting, but don’t really grab me. Maybe one in ten engages; none have made me a new fan.

Which is a whole other story. I mention it because many of these music makers are sweet, gentle, loving people who just want everyone else to be sweet, gentle, and loving. It’s a common sentiment. Banish the bad forever!

But balance is required. There is a Yin-Yang aspect to life.

## Craven

There is an oft-quoted line from the delightful movie, The Princess Bride. The line, by Inigo Montoya, is: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The first time I noticed it was Rachel Maddow, enough years ago that I was still watching her show (so three or four, at least). Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar, so it caught my attention — my first thought was that I must be wrong about the word. I looked it up, and… I’m maybe slightly more right than wrong? Or, honestly, maybe it’s just a wash.

The word I’m talking about is craven.

## The Playfair Cipher

Code master Wheatstone

Among my second tier interests are murder mysteries, detective stories, and cryptography. The first typically includes the second, but there are many detective stories that don’t involve murder. Two of my favorite detectives, Spenser (by Robert B. Parker) and V.I. Warshawski (by Sara Paretsky), often have cases not involving murder.

The third interest I listed, cryptography, doesn’t usually coincide with the first two, but it did play a role in a recent locked-room murder mystery involving the delightful amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey (by Dorothy L. Sayers). While I’ve always enjoyed secret codes, I’d never heard of the cipher Sayers used — the Playfair cipher.

It dates back to 1854, and is kind of cool, so I thought I’d share it.