Insert column here: Aug. 26, 2020
When I write one of these, I always open up a blank, new Google Doc, title it based on the upcoming issue date using an absurd code that annoys everyone, Americans and Europeans alike (month-year-day haha), and then write “Insert column here:” in the top line. That way, I’ve already got started and I feel hopeful about the progress I’m making. Three words already, only 747 to go.
Then I break for a half hour to do puzzles, then read my Facebook notifications, then read all the online news stories in seven news outlets, plus my customized Google News feed.
By the time I’ve done all that, I should have an idea what to write about this week. But, you know, shoulds don’t always happen.
These weeks, most of the news is about political conventions. If this were 1968 and some clone of Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley was running the convention and his police were rioting against protesters outside of it, I’d be all over that kind of news. But really, conventions online with no police rioting?
So, I’ll write about odds and ends in the news that struck a chord with me.
There was an article in Quanta Magazine that announced that, using 40 linked computers, mathematicians have settled the 90-year-old Keller conjecture. I never heard of Keller’s conjecture.
The conjecture was that in every Euclidean space of any dimension, if you tiled the space with equal n-dimensional squares or cubes or hypercubes (whatever is the appropriate term), at least two of them will always exactly share an entire n-1-dimensional side. In 1940, it was verified for dimensions up through 6. In 2002, it was proved false for dimensions greater than seven; dimension seven was the last remaining case. The computers were programmed to answer that case. The answer came back: The conjecture is true in dimension seven.
I was so relieved. I had only just learned what Keller’s conjecture was, but I could barely stand not knowing the disposition of it.
One of my favorite things about my job at Real Change is that, because I keep stats on circulation, and “stats” refers to math-y stuff, I get to call myself a mathematician on the line of my IRS form that asks for my occupation. Even though the mathematics is mostly counting and writing down the answers, I’m a mathematician until the end.
In other news that struck a chord, Steve Bannon probably wishes nobody out there knew how to count. Some prosecutors apparently counted up the money private donors contributed to build Trump’s border wall and found that it wasn’t all going to build the wall. In fact, it was instead paying for a lot of people’s personal expenses. So now Steve Bannon has been indicted for fraud. One of the conditions of his release on bail is he has to stay off yachts. That cheers me up.
In other cheering news — read this one till the end — the SPD is still looking for its stolen loaded Glock 43. It was in a bag in a patrol car on May 30, which was parked next to a public disturbance largely of their own making. They subpoenaed photos from five local media organizations covering that event to help find whoever stole the pistol. Now a State Supreme Court Commissioner has temporarily stayed the subpoena, and it looks like there’s a chance that the court may eventually rule against the SPD.
Before I quit for this week, I want to talk a bit more about the circulation stats I do at Real Change. From the beginning of the newspaper, in 1994, circulation stats have always mattered, but they were posted monthly and aimed at informing the management and the board of directors about the monetary contribution circulation was bringing in. The idea being the vendors pay a portion of the cost of each paper. And the question being: How much does their combined contribution help keep Real Change going?
Around 2007 or 2008, I started asking to do something a little different. My idea was, let’s compile stats with a different aim. Instead of looking to see how our sales are contributing to the fiscal wellbeing of the Real Change organization, let’s focus on how our vendors’ fiscal wellbeing is impacted by our circulation. I got to work on that.
I’m really very sorry that all my documents have the weird dating format and for the vendors and everyone that the numbers have been all over the place this year. To Real Changers: I feel your pain.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2020 issue.