Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Policemales and Policefemales

More and more, as I watch my local news, I hear local police referring to people as males and females instead of men and women, and I don't know why. Is The suspect is a black male in his thirties somehow less racist-sounding than The suspect is a black man in his thirties? Perhaps they think that if they use such scientific jargon, they will appear more clinical and disinterested?

That now makes me wonder how long male and female have been used as nouns. I expect them more often to appear as adjectives, which means that these news reports leave me hanging. "Police tazered a thirty-year-old male who refused to comply with police orders." A 30-year-old male what, exactly? Of course, it's clear that they mean a "male human," otherwise known as a "man," but a dropped noun could easily make the story more interesting and laughable.

"Police today were forced to tazer a 30-year-old cheddar wheel who refused to comply with police orders. The cheese was then taken to a local hospital where it was tested for drugs and subsequently digested by the nursing staff."

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Boy Who Lived through the Wait


My quick story about good luck getting my copy of The Deathly Hallows: I had reserved a copy at the local Border's. After work on Friday (following the directions in the e-mail I got from Border's), I drove to Border's to pick up the bracelet that would "secure my place in line." I was asked to choose a house. I figured that most people would choose either Gryffindor or Slytherin, so I took Ravenclaw, which was neon orange.

Cut to later that night. My family went to an Indians game (where I finally got to see the Indians win!). I didn't get home until 11:30. I changed clothes and went back to Border's. I missed all of the "Hallow's Ball" stuff, but I found someone there I work with. He told me that they had already called orange -- they were using wrist band colors to put people in line. (They were numbered, too, which I didn't realize until then.) So I got there at about 11:45, went straight into the building, and discovered that orange was indeed the first group. I found the last orange bracelet in line and got behind him.

I was in the first 100 people to get the book at this store. I was out of there by 12:15. There were some people who showed up around 9pm and waited three to four hours; I was in and out in half an hour.

I might as well have taken some Felix Felicis during lunch.

I started reading when I got home and read until 2:30 am. I finished the book at 10:50 that night. I'm still letting it settle before I write about it.

For some Harry Potter fun (with no spoilers), check out "The Mysterious Ticking Noise" at YouTube, and some of the other movies by the Potter Puppet Pals.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Order of the Phoenix

Saw the latest Harry Potter movie tonight. Not much really to say about it except that it's the best one yet. Daniel Radcliffe is really coming into his own as an actor. I don't think the movie version of Deathly Hallows will be the last we see of him.

They had to cut a lot from the book to get the movie to the "right" size. And I wonder (worry, even?) about some of the choices they made. Is JK Rowling in on the screenwriting? It seems too easy for the screenwriters to cut some little thing that could turn out to be more important than originally thought two or three novels later. For instance, they never mentioned that Trelawney was the one who had the prophecy.

But I don't want to give any spoilers...

Anyway, I'm still iffy on the girl they got to play Luna Lovegood. She certainly had that unshakeable (or oblivious) self-confidence and lack of fear that makes Luna such a outcast character, but the actress, Evanna Lynch, might have overdone the "space case" mannerisms a bit too much. I got the idea that Luna was always on a heavy sedative.

But, still, I'm ready to see the movie again.

Perfect Square

Without going into why I was doing so, today I had the "opportunity" to answer the question, "What is the square root of 523,457?" And I learned some mathematical truths by trying to answer this question.

I began be trying to factor it down to prime numbers -- but that left me with 11 x 23 x 2069. Then I tried factoring down an approximation of the original number, in this case, 523,456 = 8 x 8 x 8179. 8,179 is a prime number.

I finally came at it from the answer instead of the question, homing in on the answer I needed. The quick version is as follows, with the square root of 523,457 represented as x:
700 < x < 800
720 < x < 730
723 < x < 724
Anyway, the point of going on about this isn't to figure out the square root of this odd number, but to share something I discovered (for myself, not for the mathematical world at large, which surely has already figured this out). The original number, 523,457, is obviously not a perfect square because perfect squares never end in 7. I'd never realized the ban on sevens before, but it makes sense when you consider how you multiply multi-digit numbers.

Looking into this further, I realized that perfect squares always have to end in 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, or 9. I discovered this by squaring each of the first 10 numbers.

But I also discovered a pattern that I hadn't noticed before. Looking just at the last digit, if you start to list the perfect squares in order, those final digits follow the pattern 0, 1, 4, 9, 6, 5, 6, 9, 4, 1, 0, ... I find not only the existence of the pattern intriguing, but also the fact that it's a symmetrical pattern with an intervening zero.

There's also a pattern to the rest of the perfect squares. If you drop the final digit of each perfect square, there is a stepwise addition pattern that shifts up whenever you reach a perfect square that ends with a 9. You'll have to look at it yourelf, but basically, you start at 0. When you hit 9, you start adding 1 to get each of the next perfect squares. When you hit the next perfect square that ends in 9 (49), then you start adding 2 to get the first digit of each number.

I know, most people will just think "so what?" But for me, I get a great feeling from discovering a truth for myself. I also love logic puzzles, and this is something of that sort. Now that I've figured this out, I'll have to try to find the underlying logic of the decimal system that makes this so. And I'll have to see if there is a similar pattern for perfect cubes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My New Baby

My first new new car. . . albeit a lease.