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quidity (1296)

quidity
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http://the.earth.li/~alex/
Jabber: quidity@jabber.earth.li

A relapsing reformed physicist.

Journal of quidity (1296)

Thursday July 11, 2002
12:55 PM

I am the Master

[ #6282 ]

Of physics, that is. But now I stop, and start being me again. In part this is good, as I like being me, in part it is bad, as I quite liked physics.

I've just spent the last two weeks either in, or getting to, the French Alps for purposes of kayaking down fast and full rivers. Amusing highlights include a blood red full moon as we drove past Calais, half-inch hailstones pinging the guy ropes of my tent and the discovery of both the real meaning of "autre" and pizzas with eggs on after a slight accident of ordering. Bad parts cover interesting group dynamics, fussy eaters (all not ketchup, chocolate, crisps, tomato and pasta or pizza considered rancid... how dull), rafts (rubber behemoths full of screaming punters) bearing down on me whilst pinned half under a submerged tree branch during a swim and a "world class" rodeo event that turned into races over a wave.

While out there I read a lot, including half of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a moderately good book by any author or a very good book dictated purely by blinking one eyelid. This is a collection of the imaginings and memories brought up after the author is paralised by a stroke and was "written" by an assistant reading through the alphabet with the author winking when the required letter was reached. With a nod to speed the alphabet was reordered to the frequency with which letters appeared (in French, that is). This left me, in my guise as a programmer, thinking of the system I'd like to use if I were in a simillar position -- could the method be improved to be faster to dictate, that is.

The initial list of letters with English frequency weighting taken from my own writing (fear me, for I am become corpus) is as follows:

e t o i a n s r h l d c u m f y w p g b v k x q j z

Which is all well and good, but (assuming that blinking and not blinking take as long as each other) less than ideal -- the eleventh letter being only a third less likely than the first. The best solution I could conjure up was an unbalanced binary tree (which the above is just an extreme example of), which has the advantage of being simply extended to include whole words and what not, but does require blinking more than once for each letter so perhaps a more attentive assistant is called for.

Next week I'm off to Wales to make my footpath but annoyingly I must miss a day of my holiday to attend an induction event for my job next year. In the final analysis I think I'll cope, mostly because the promise of future money offsets the massive hole I've created in my bank accounts to go canoeing and feed my need for walking boots and head torches. I'm still quite surprised that hobbies so close to nature require so much from the cutting edge of technology...

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  • Anyone who has has seen a Linotype type casting machine will be familiar with the above as these machines have a keyboard layout based on letter frequency. The above string was what the compositors would output to mark that they had made a mistake and that the line needed discarding - and done just by running a finger across the top row of the keyboard.