Saturday, 21 August 2010

Wolf Worship Two...

(A follow up to this post...)
So, I wrapped my book of crypic nonsense around a bottle of  Green Island Spiced Gold (recommended by the delightful boys in Gerry's on Old Compton Street as being the nearest thing to original recipe Sailor Jerry. T'was pretty tasty, maybe a little bit sweet for me, but better than the 'improved' Jerry, and around the same price, so a temporary win while the search continues) and gave it to Wolf on Saturday night with his proper presents - and he seemed pretty intrigued with it - spotted it as Elian straight off, which I expected. I wouldn't let him decode it on Sunday, because I would've got all itchy watching him do it
He did it in his dinner hour, while eating his sandwiches - He's so ridiculously smart, I knew it wouldn't take him long. Apparently translating the Elian into text was the hardest bit, and he briefly thought I might of done something clever (I wish) referring back to words in the text of Alice in Wonderland, but quickly saw it was a Ceaser with shifts, and, well, that was that.
He said he liked that I'd used different ways to describe things as it made patterns harder to spot, and that my using lots of repetition was clever because it throws off the basic attacks (these two comments seem to be contradictory, but I didn't point that out. Let him think I'm smart)
I think he enjoyed it, and I know he appreciated the effort - I explained that it was such a simple code because my entire knowledge of cryptology comes from the little bits he's shown me, so he gave me a copy of Simon Singh's Code Book (which I've been wanting to read since finishing this project) - saying '"God help me at Christmas now I've armed you with this."  He clearly knows that the best way to my heart is via my bookshelf (Popco was bloody marvellous, btw, highly recommended)
He's bloody marvelous, my boy
*Soppy grin*
Noods xx

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Nerd Scarf

In the approach to The Boy's birthday, he dropped a couple of hints* that he'd like a Dr Who scarf, so despite my complete inability to knit** I decided to have a crack at it.

Problem is, Boy doesn't exactly wear alot of colours... basically just black, grey, white and red - so a proper 'traditional' prismatic jobby wasn't really going to do the trick. I decided to keep it to just black & red - his favourite colour combo... which left me with a different problem, namely that a two colour stripe is seriously boring.
But fear not... Math-Nerd to the rescue! I'd been reading a spot of Ian Stewart, which set me to thinking it might be cool*** to base a scarf on the Fibonacci sequence - to take the numbers which create all the spirals and curves around us, and use them to make a object that is essentially a long straight line, which will then be made useful by forming it into loops and circles around a person. 

So, my basic pattern was formed - increasing Fibonacci numbers in one colour, alternated with decreasing Fibonacci numbers in the other colour (1 red, 233 black, 1 red, 144 black, 2 red, 89 black, 3 red, 55 black...), which also creates quite a nice pixelated sort of fade from one colour to the other.
I used garter stitch, that being the extent of my knitting ability, and was quite pleaded with how tidy it came out looking - fairly even tensioning. Although the wool I used - from the Big Softie range by Sidar - was disappointingly knotty, so annoyingly messed up some bits (though I suppose at about £3.00 a ball it is one of the cheaper super-chunky wools available, so I shouldn't really complain  - you get what you pay for...). I would also comment that it recommends 10mm needles for this wool - but I felt this gave too open a weave and, after a little experimentation settled on 7 1/2 needles to give a nice firm, dense structure. Using smaller needles meant I went through more wool than I expected - 12 balls in total (at 45meters a ball, there's 540 meters of wool in that there scarf!). The wool was nice and light too - important given the size of the bloody thing (4 meters 30 in lenght, not including the tassles!), and - bar the knots - very easy to knit with.

I was pretty pleased with the finished product and, more importantly, Wolf seemed pleased with it too (he cottoned onto my idea about natural spirals becoming a straight line, then looped artificially, without me even having to begin to explain it - which made me grin like a loon, and I think tells you alot about why he's so perfect).
Off to buy him a bag of Jelly Babies**** to complete the Tom Baker look...

*Well... ish. I was rather grasping at straws by this point
**Not entirely true... I can, strictly speaking, knit. But I can't purl, increase, decrease, or remember how to cast off.
***I may of redefined 'cool' for the purposes of this sentence...
****Random fact-oid: Jelly Babies were first created to mark the end of the First World War, and were called 'Peace Babies.' There's nothing like eating children to spread love and harmony around the globe.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Cryptic Crush

T'other half is really into cryptography, so for his birthday I'm doing him a message in a bottle that I've coded for him to break. At least that was the plan - in which I have rather failed by making it into something that doesn't actually fit into a bottle. I'm going to wrap it around a bottle instead - this method of presentation having the advantage that then the bottle can still contain rum (Which in itself has the advantage that it will necessitate a rum-tasting trip, since Sailor Jerry have 'improved' their recipe and now we don't have a favourite rum anymore.)

Coded Up
Right - the word I've coded is 'Mush' (it's one of those heinous relationship jokes that no one but the two of us gets. sorry.) chosen as it's short and simple (to begin with. It got longer, because of the way I treated it - in fact, it turned out it got alot longer - which is why my message no longer fits into a bottle!)

First stage is simple - put it into binary, which I then translate into written numbers. Then I put it through an alphabet substitution cypher (A Caesar cipher), which shifts between each letter of the original word. Which is translated into Morse code.

M = 01001101
o ten o eleven o one
t yjs t jqjajs t tsj (shifts by 5)
- / -.-- .--- ... / - / .--- --.- .--- .- .--- ... / - / - ... .---

U = 01010101
four bracket zero one bracket
pyeb lbkmuod joby yxo lbkmuod (shifts by 10)
.--. -.-- . -... / .-.. -... -.- -- ..- --- -.. / .--- --- -... -.-- / -.-- -..- --- / .-.. -... -.- -- ..- --- -..

S =  01010011
zero one zero one double zero double one
otgd dct otgd dct sdjqat otgd sdjqat dct (shifts by 15)
--- - --. -.. / -.. -.-. - / --- - --. -.. / -.. -.-. - / ... -.. .--- --.- .- - / --- - --. -.. / ... -.. .--- --.- .- - / -.. -.-. -

H = 01001000
nought one hundred one thousand
hioabn ihy bohxlyx ihy nbiomuhx (shifts by 20)
.... .. --- .- -... -. / .. .... -.-- / -... --- .... -..- .-.. -.-- -..- / .. .... -.-- / -. -... .. --- -- ..- .... -..-

So, to progress from here, the Morse code gets translated into text (dash dot long dash dit short dah dot....), and from there into Elian Script (which is basically a prettified pigpen cipher)
At which point I had to work out how to present this so that Wolf will know where each new letter begins, and each new word... so I threw in a colour element. Basically, each letter of the Morse Code is written in a different colour, and each word will be written in distinctly separate blocks.
And that is, essentially, the finished code! Hurrah.

At this point I have to give a massive shout-out thank you to Aimee & Dot for carefully checking over my work for mistakes - I really appreciate the time you took to help me out.
I confess I'm a little concerned that each step is very simple, and Wolf will break the back of it almost instantly. The only difficulty he may encounter being the  large amounts of repetition throwing off alot of standard key-finding methods (eg, frequency attacks are  unlikely to be very useful). Had I come up with this idea a little further in advance of his Birthday, I may of been able to do some research and create something a little more interesting - but I'm hoping he will appreciate that cryptography is his bag, not mine, and it's the gesture that counts and all that happy clappy what-not...
And it's just ironic that the day I completed the neat write up of the code I started reading Popco by Scarlett Thomas, (excellent read so far, fyi) which has inspired lots of much more interesting and challenging ideas inside my head... but I guess they'll have to wait for next year...

And the Pretty girlie stuff
So, now all that was left to do was write the bugger up. 
I managed to stumble upon a 'Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll' in a charity shop, which seemed an appropriate starting point given that  Carroll was also a math nerd and liked a bit of cryptanalysis himslf, plus Wolf has been known to call me 'his Alice' (More rom-com awful in-jokes. So sorry) . I brought the book and immediatly proceeded to rip apart. Being somewhat of a book-lover (slight understatement possibly?) this caused me actual physical pain, on the level that I felt each little tear like it was going into my own skin... 
To cure this, I decided that I should apply the restorative benefits of tea, not only to myself (in the form of mug), but also to the torn out pages (in the form of bath) - having the added effect of nicely aging the horrible cheap white paper that the book had been printed on. Because if there's one thing a degree in Stage Management teaches you, it's how to tea-stain stuff really nicely. Thanks Guildhall.

Having tea-stained enough pages, I ironed them (so they sit nicer together, And wrote up the code 'in neat.' I used ABT pens by Tombow, because they are available in a good colour range, but I found the brush end (They are duel ended, with a brush end and a thin-tip end) got knackered pretty quickly, even though I wasn't exactly hard-wearing on them - a bit disappointing given the fairly high individual cost of the pens.
Once it was written up and I'd checked over my work (again. Just to be sure...) it was time to bind the pages together. Now, i know exactly zero about bookbinding, and I basically made it up as i went along, but it seemed to come out pretty well. I used a ladder stitch to sew them pages together, then just glued (Brushable superglue again. I'm still in love with this stuff) a length of wide satin ribbon over the stitches. Then, purely for decorative effect and added Wolf-ness, I finished it off by popping a Skull-head rivet (the kind meant for leather working) through the spine. I decided to 'soften' the edges, the easiest way to do which being to carry it around in my handbag for a couple of days - just to slightly batter the pages and give the book as a whole more of a naturally aged look. And.... done.
I shall report back on boy's reaction (and the total number of minutes it takes him to decipher) post birthday celebrations
Post-birthday write up here