MT VOID 11/11/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 20, Whole Number 1675

MT VOID 11/11/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 20, Whole Number 1675

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/11/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 20, Whole Number 1675

Table of Contents

      Heckle: Mark Leeper, Jekyll: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Costco (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

We have a new Costco that opened near us. For me that feels like good news. I just like going to Costco in a way I don't feel about Home Depot or Wal-mart. I realize now that I never really asked myself why I have this special feeling about Costco. When I asked myself why it was I had this attitude the reason became obvious. It is the food samples they give out. I am sure if you asked the corporation why they give food samples they would have a stock answer that it is just good advertising and it pust the customer in a good frame of mind to buy the product. That may be true as far as it goes but I think that is not the main reason. It is more a question of operant conditioning. Go to a Costco and a food pellet drops. [-mrl]

The Game of Decimal Patterns (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Richard Feynman had a fascination with one particular fraction. He noticed the fraction 1/243 was interesting when expressed as a decimal. It is equal to .004115226337448559... He was surprised at the pattern. Do you see the pattern? Break these digits into groups of three and you get

0. 004 115 226 337 448 559 ...

[I put in spaces for readability.]

The pattern will not continue much further since the next triad will be 670. It really fits into the pattern but it is what you would get if the low order digit could be 10. Carrying in the process of addition ruins the pattern. If we could use A to represent 10 we could express this triad as 66A and the pattern would continue.

Now some people may know that if one finds the decimal equivalent of a number that is a ratio of two integers one will always get a repeating decimal--or what will be a repeating decimal if one extends it far enough out.

2/15 = .1 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 ...

97/275 = 0.35 27 27 27 27 27 ...

However, that is really not quite like what Feynman had found.

0. 004 115 226 337 448 559 ...

has the digits cycling, but also increasing each cycle. One could observe that

0. 004 115 226 337 448 559 ...

is equal to

0. 004 004 004 004 004 004 ... + 0. 000 111 222 333 444 555 ...

We can find a fractional equivalent of each of these two decimals.

Now 0. 004 004 004 004 004 004 certainly a fraction. It is in fact equal to 4/999.

But what is the value of 0. 000 111 222 333 444 555 666 ...?

Well, it turns out this is 1/8991.

Notice how often 9s show up in these denominators. In fact 8991 is nine times 999. So 4/999 is really 36/8991. And Feynman's number 1/243 is 4/999 + 1/8991 = (36+1)/8991 = 37/8991 = 1/243.

Why do 9s show up so much? Well consider the number .777.... Let us call it X. We will have some temporary problems dealing with X because it has an infinitely long tail. That really says we don't immediately know the exact value of X since it is 7/10 + 7/100 + 7/1000 + 7/10000 + ...

But if X = .777... Then 10x is 7.777... which also has that same inconvenient infinitely-long tail.

But X is just the value of the tail itself. So 9X = (10x - x) = 7.777... - 0.777... = 7, and so 9X = 7. So X = 7/9.

The 9 showed up because it was (10 - 1).

You could use a similar technique to show 0.0707070 = 7/99. If you understand that, you also understand why above it turned out that

0. 004 004 004 004 ... is 4/999 as we said before or more usefully

0. 001 001 001 001 ... = 1/999.

We can get another interesting pattern with 1/9801. This is equal to

0. 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 ..

If we want to start with 1 in the first digit pair we can multiply by 100.

if 1/9801 = 0. 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11...

100/9801 = 0. 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 ..

1/998001 = 0. 000 001 002 003 004 005 006

111/998001 simplifies to 1/8991 and equals

0. 000 111 222 333 444 555 666

And 1000/8991 is

0. 111 222 333 444 555 666 777

Now for next week here is a tough puzzle for our readers. I will publish the names of anyone getting me the answer by next Thursday. Find the fraction in lowest terms that is equal to the following decimals with patterns (which admittedly may eventually break down because of carrying). What fraction in the form X/Y is equal to:

1) .0123210123210123210...

2) .012 123 234 345 456 567 678 789 ..


Words We Need in English (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I just read a couple of articles about words in other languages that we have no corresponding word in English (though obviously we can express the idea, or the article would be pretty useless. I was particularly interested in the Spanish words, but noticed that a couple of my favorites were not included. One that was mentioned, but possibly does not count is "simpático/- a", simply because it seems to have been adopted into English (much as the German word "schadenfreude" has been).

But my (current) top ten are:

1. Tertulia: A group of friends who meet regularly at a cafe for discussions. I love this one: it was perfect for the group that my father was in that met daily (and later twice a week) at McDonald's for decades.

2. Consuegro/-a: My child's spouse's father/mother. In Yiddish, the corresponding word is "mishpochah".

3. Concuñado/-a: Either the spouse of one's spouse's sibling, or the sibling of one's sibling's spouse. The (non-)word "brother-in- law-in-law" would be the equivalent.

4. Friolero/-a: Someone who is always cold.

5. Cotisuelto (in Caribbean Spanish): One who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.

6. Tocayo/-a: Someone who shares the same name, usually just the first. (Unlike "namesake", this person needn't be named after the other). Evelyn Waugh es mi tocayo. (I assume it is "tocayo" because he is male, rather than "tocaya" because I am female.)

7. Ajeno/-a: Belonging to someone else or concerning other people.

8. Amanecer: For dawn to break; to become morning.

9. Caldito de habichuelas: Bean sauce. This is not a thick gravy, but a liquid of a more soup-like consistency you get when you cook Puerto Rican beans. My father always used to ask for more of this.

10. Pasado mañana, anteayer, anteanoche: The day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday, and the evening of the day before yesterday (actually the night before last, but usually referring to the evening). The first two are reasonably compactly expressed in English, but not the last. Ironically, the last is probably most useful to Jews, who on a Sunday might want to refer to something Friday evening connected with the start of the Sabbath, e.g., "Encendí las velas anteanoche."

There are lots of words having to do with cooking, of which I have included only "caldito". For example, there is "alcaparrado", a mixture of capers and sliced stuffed olives used in cooking. There is "pegao", the crispy and tasty rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot in various rice dishes. There are "sofrito" and "recaito", tomato- and cilantro-based seasoning sauces. And there is "adobo", which is basically salt and garlic powder, with various optional additional ingredients (e.g. cumin or pepper). This is not be confused with the Filipino "adobo" which is a dish of meat marinated and cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. [-ecl]

THE WINDS OF DUNE by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (copyright 2009, Tor, 448pp, $27.99, ISBN-10: 0-7653-2272-2, ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-2272-2) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

I read these so you don't have to.

That's not quite fair, I suppose. No matter what the various Anderson-bashers residing all over the Internet have to say, this, and the other, "Dune" novels are not poorly written. Neither are they well-written. They are ... written.

THE WINDS OF DUNE bills itself as the direct sequel to DUNE MESSIAH. I suppose it is. The events it relates happens between the ending of DUNE MESSIAH, when Paul walked off into the desert, and the beginning of CHILDREN OF DUNE. Alia is Regent, and is trying to cement her hold on the Imperium. She is romantically linked to the ghola of Duncan Idaho (no, I'm not going to summarize all of that stuff from DUNE MESSIAH--sorry). The Jihad is over, more or less. Jessica is now living as the Duchess of House Atreides on Caladan.

The book begins with a ship coming to Caladan to inform Jessica that Paul has gone into the desert, the conspirators involved in an attempt on Paul's life have been rounded up and executed, and Bronso of Ix is spreading his stories about Paul throughout the Imperium, in an attempt to show that Paul was a man, not a god.


Bronso Vernius was a childhood friend of Paul's, mirroring the friendship between House Atreides and House Vernius (refer to some of the other "Dune" novels written by Anderson and Herbert). However, something has come between Paul and Bronso, and now Bronso is spreading his version of things, his viewpoint, saying that Paul is just a flawed man, nothing more.

Which, of course, is directly opposite of what Alia wants written about Paul, and in fact what Alia has instructed Irulan to write about Paul. So, Alia's ticked--and we all know how messed up she got. Jessica is trying to get to the root of all this political madness, and performs a delicate balancing act when she does indeed find out what's going on.

Like PAUL OF DUNE, this novel goes back in time and tells some of the backstory of Paul and Bronso, and how everything came down to where it is today. The flashbacks are nowhere near as interesting as what is happening in the present, but for the present to make sense we have to know about the past.

Bronso of Ix. Hmm. We all know there were only six original "Dune" novels written by Frank Herbert, and while my memory isn't what it used to be, let me tell you that I do not remember a character by that name. I even Googled him. If the Internet has no reference to him, does he really exist (that's yet another question for another day, and on a different topic entirely)? Which brings us to the point of it all.

That there isn't one.

Like PAUL OF DUNE, THE WINDS OF DUNE really doesn't add anything to the overarching mythos of the Dune universe. It's really self- contained in that characters and events are introduced that didn't exist in the original books. If this book wasn't written, no one would know the difference. At all. End of statement. Things happen here that get wrapped up by the end such that it's like a black box. Pull it out and it doesn't matter.

So, what's the point? To make money, of course. Why do I read these things? Two reasons, I suppose. First, I'm a silly completist. And two, well, I read them so you don't have to. [-jak]

THE WAY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Emilio Estevez produces, writes, directs, and even acts in this film starring his father, Martin Sheen. Tom Avery (Sheen), an American eye doctor travels to France to pick up the body of his son (Estevez) who died on the first day of making a pilgrimage. The route he was to take was the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage road more than a millennium old. It goes from the Pyrenees in France into Spain and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Tom decides to complete the pilgrimage for his son, distributing his son's ashes along the way. One at a time, three other pilgrims join him. They travel together and get to know each other. This is a quiet, warm film that some will find actually spiritual. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Actor Martin Sheen had heard since he was a boy about the road that Christian pilgrims have taken for more than a thousand years to visit the remains of St. James. The road winds through the hills of France and Spain with beautiful scenery and old inns along the way. In 2003 Sheen had walked part of the Camino and found it a transcendent experience. He suggested to his son Emilio Estevez (the son who is not so frequently in the news) that he might make a film about or set on the road. Emilio wrote, produced, directed, and even appeared in the resulting film.

Ophthalmologist Tom Avery (Sheen) does not like how his son Danny (Estevez) is not interested in living a prosperous life. Against Tom's advice Danny is going to travel, see the world, and take in another lifestyle. Then bad news comes from France. Danny had started to walk the Camino de Santiago, but was caught in a storm after only one day and was killed. Tom travels to France to pick up the body and bring it home. But as a final gift to his son instead, he has it cremated and intends to spread the ashes along the Camino. In a dark mood he sets out to walk the route and spread ashes. At first he keeps running into Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a Dutch traveler walking the route. Soon there are others and he cannot get rid of them. There is Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), an ill-tempered Canadian who smokes too much. And there is Jack (James Nesbitt), a strange Irish writer collecting stories for a book about his journey. They walk the road by day amongst beautiful hill-country scenery. They visit churches to admire the medieval splendor. They talk. They confess to each other. At night they camp or stay in simple inns and enjoy the local cuisine. The four travelers talk; they argue; they even come to blows. But not much happens. This is an adventure film, but not an action film. You will come to know (or think you know) four people very well. It is just about how walking the pilgrimage changes each. This is a "road picture" if there ever was one. Watching the film is much like just putting your mind to rest and taking the road.

Just as there is no doubt where the four are going, there is little doubt where the film is going. The four squabbling travelers will transform into four spiritual pilgrims who will share a life-long bond. The travelers will face their own preconceptions and prejudices. Everything about the film is peaceful or leads to peace. Even the colors are a little muted to not be too strident. Estevez based the film on stories by author Jack Hitt, and it is probably no coincidence that the writer-character is named Jack.

There is a deep quiet in this film, a mood that will not be found in any other film this year. The viewer will come away feeling connected to France, Spain, history, and humanity. I rate THE WAY +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Naked Mole Rats (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):

In response to Mark's comments on animated films in the 11/04/11 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes:

[You wrote,] "I think that by 2014 we will be down to cockroaches and naked mole rats." Already covered by "Kim Possible" (naked mole rats that is).

Evelyn adds:

Apparently "Kim Possible" is an animated Disney series with a team of crime-fighters, led by Kim Possible, and including Rufus, a naked mole rate who (according to Wikipedia) "goes on nearly all missions and, due to his small size, often proves useful." [-ecl]

MONEYBALL and Sabermetrics (letter of comment by Jerry Ryan):

In response to Mark's comments on regression analysis and MONEYBALL in the 11/04/11 issue of the MT VOID, Jerry Ryan writes:

I'm a big baseball fan, and enjoyed the MONEYBALL book very much. Haven't gotten to the movie yet, but I plan to.

I think your discussion about sabermetrics and regression analysis in baseball might be missing a subtle point. Let me take a crack at this.

The critical message in MONEYBALL (the book) was that some teams were over-valuing certain player traits, and under-valuing others. Bill James and Paul DePodesta theorized that since wins are important, runs are important (because you need runs to win games), and since runs are important, a statistic called "On Base Percentage" is important. On Base Percentage measures how often you get on base as a percentage of your plate appearances.

[Switching into baseball statistics geek mode for a moment: your batting average measures hits per "at bats". If you draw a walk, or reach base because you were hit by a pitch, or because an error was committed, or because someone chose to let you reach first base to make a play elsewhere, that does not count as an "at bat" so does not affect your batting average. So, while your Batting Average measures how well you hit given all of your chances to make a hit, your On Base Percentage measures how often you get on base, hitting the ball or not.]

One of the important observations was that the market for baseball players was undervaluing On Base Percentage (among other statistical measures). Because of that, players that got on base more often could actually be purchased for a relatively smaller amount of money. The A's saw bargains and bought them.

They also did something interesting: they refused to hire players that had not finished college. The claim was that this allowed for four years of solid unbiased statistics on a player ... though I think an argument could be made for only hiring more mature players.

I think the analogy with wine falls down at this point. You can curve-fit a lot of data about wines and growing characteristics and do a regression analysis. The analysis showed a different, more structured approach to evaluating what would be a good wine. Both analyses--statistical and wine-expert--came to the same conclusion.

The MONEYBALL story is different. There, they did an analysis of available data and came up with a different result than the experts did. They leveraged that different result to purchase bargains and won division championships.

It's instructive to note that sabermetrics has really pervaded the game of baseball now. It's no longer the case that a high OBP is undervalued. Beane and DePodesta and Theo Epstein have been in other places and spread the sabermetrics religion ... and since they have, the small market teams like the A's have no longer been able to exploit differences in information and analysis to buy undervalued players. [-gwr]

Mark responds:

I had thought that the regression analysis also helped you choose the most important statistics. On Base Percentage is one of many factors they could have looked at. You may be right, but I thought that the regression analysis helped point to that as an important statistic. [-mrl]

Evelyn adds:

By the way, in case you were wondering, James devised the name sabermetrics "to honor" SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research (according to an interview with Chris Jaffe). [-ecl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I have been watching the British television mini-series "Shakespeare's Age of Kings", broadcast in 1960 in fifteen parts with a really amazing cast: Sean Connery as Harry Percy (a.k.a. Hotspur), Judi Dench as Princess Katherine of France, Julian Glover as King Edward IV, and Frank Pettingell as Sir John Falstaff.

In "Henry IV, Part 2", King Henry V makes the following speech to the Lord Chief Justice when Henry becomes king after his father's (Henry IV's) death:

	You shall be as a father to my youth:
	My voice shall sound as you do prompt mine ear,	
        And I will stoop and humble my intents
	To your well-practised wise directions.
	And, princes all, believe me, I beseech you;
	My father is gone wild into his grave,
	For in his tomb lie my affections;
	And with his spirit sadly I survive,
	To mock the expectation of the world,
	To frustrate prophecies and to raze out
	Rotten opinion, who hath writ me down
	After my seeming. The tide of blood in me
	Hath proudly flow'd in vanity till now:
	Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea,
	Where it shall mingle with the state of floods
	And flow henceforth in formal majesty.
And later, when speaking to Falstaff:
	Presume not that I am the thing I was;
	For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
	That I have turn'd away my former self;
	So will I those that kept me company.
	When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
	Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
	The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
	Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death,
	As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
	Not to come near our person by ten mile.
	For competence of life I will allow you,
	That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
	And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
	We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
	Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord,
	To see perform'd the tenor of our word. Set on.

This seems merely an elaboration upon I Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

I also ran across a small volume titled THE STORY OF ONE HUNDRED GREAT COMPOSERS by Helen L. Kaufmann (no isbn). Published in 1943, possibly under paper rationing restrictions, it is 5.25 inches high, 3.75 inches wide, and a half inch thick. One the dust jacket flap it says, "How convenient to have at hand a little book like this--to supply us with al the interesting facts of the lives and careers of one hundred of the great composers of all time. It is made to fit your pocket or your purse, so the information will be available when you want it most." I'm just trying to envision a world in which people are so enamored of concert music that they would carry around this book the way some people carry around a Bible or New Testament. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          No question is so difficult to answer as that 
          to which the answer is obvious.
                                          --George Bernard Shaw

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