What would you do if you were Superman?
I never called it Explaining to Time Travelers - I never called it anything at all, for that matter - but I do that same thing. And it really never occurred to me that anybody else might!
The joys of the internet!
I'm oddly happy to find out that I'm not the only one who automatically reduces all numbers to primes. I mentioned it to my husband once, and I could see that he thought it a little strange.
Your license plate pastime is more interesting than mine. I add up all of the numbers and all of the letters (A=1 and so on) and feel pleased if the resulting sum is divisible by five. I have no idea why divisible-by-five = pleasing; that's just the way it is.
I met a couple of other people at college who did the prime factorization thing. All physics majors, but that may have been a sampling bias.
My friend Lisa told me that when they were driving down the road, her 7-year-old son (who was my unabashed favorite of her kids, and I was one of his favorite of grown-ups) would call out, "Eight! Five! Two!" Finally she asked him what he was doing, because she couldn't see any reason he should say those numbers, and it was always single-digit numbers. Turns out he was adding together the digits on whatever sign and then adding them again until he got to a single digit. So he'd see a highway sign for 580 and add to get 13 and add to get 4, then report in, "Four!" I nodded and started to tell her about the prime factorization thing, and it just blew her away that I treated the kid's number-noodling as normal. But it was, really. At least, I thought so.
2004-12-23 05:51 am (UTC)
Did you tell her that it's called "casting out nines"?
I don't mean to imply that all physics majors I knew did this, just that everyone I knew who did this was a physics major.
2004-12-23 05:50 am (UTC)
Explaining To Time Travelers
So it does have a name after all!
I know I've been doing this since I was a kid, but the one that sticks in my mind the most was when I was 17 and rode a riverboat on the Mississippi River. I was explaining to a time-displaced Samuel L. Clemens all the 20th century mechanisms behind the 19th century-appearing designs.
"Stuck on a Starship": I haven't played this, but I have played "Stuck through a Stargate". Same idea, only you're on the other side of a Stargate and can't get back to Earth, rather than on a starship.
Nope, don't play any sort of time-travel-spaceship-stuck-wishing-Superman game. Can't honestly say "never," but I can't think of a single time.
I have, however, played the license plate game. I remember it keeping me amused on long car trips as a kid. But license plates have too many hard letters these days.
I don't factor in my head, either. I'm a theoretical mathematician. I did know someone who could quickly factor three-digit numbers, and four-digit numbers with effort. He would do it geometrically.
Do license plates really have harder letters than once they did, or are you joking?
I don't know. I haven't played this game in years, but the last time I paid attention I noticed more "hard" letters. The plates? Me?
Or maybe it was the state or country I happened to be in.
License plate hereabouts do go through "harder" phases. The issue AAA 000 through ZZZ 999 and then they issue 000 AAA through 999 ZZZ, and so on. You'll see that cars of the same age tend to have alphabetically similar plates. If you're playing during the end of the alphabetic distribution, there'll be relatively more of the harder plates around.
There are some exceptions: the DWI "whiskey" plates, for example. And since these are physical objects, stacks of them are sitting at the issuing facility, so you don't get the next one in the sequence over all when you get new plates. You get the next one in the pile.
I play Apocalypse Scenario most often. ("If the apocalypse came right now, what and who in this scene would help me build the new empire of Mer?") I also play Instant World Travel, and its variant, Instant Time Travel. ("If I were thrown into a fantasy world with medieval technology/if I were cast back into 1804 England right now, what would I do?")
I don't usually call them anything, because by the time I have imagined that I have reinvented decent feminine hygeine products, I have gotten to where I need to be.
I have occasionally joked that we live in Minneapolis so that my Apocalypse Scenario turns out all right.
Does "What would you/I do if you/I won the lottery" count? That's a favorite of mine.
I'll do math games, like prime factorization, if I'm running or otherwise working out at the gym. Just seems like the thing to do sometimes.
I don't so much explain to time travelers, but sometimes I create an internal narrative as though Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing it. Which I guess is sort of the same thing, because from what I understand she originally conceived Little House In The Big Woods as a book to explain to modern kids how things were done before the pioneer way--I think I read somewhere the original title was "When Grandma Was Small" or some such. and if you read it, you can see that idea come through, in the chapters where Pa smokes the venison or Ma makes straw hats or cheese or whatever.
One of my favorite mental games might as well be called "Blur Reality," but it falls under the "making up worlds" metagame. Whenever I've had occasion to build a world for a novel or a roleplaying game, I find myself looking for things in the outside world that will fit into my inner folder. Usually, this is benign. Example: everything Egypt falls into the "False Gods" folder. More disorienting examples are: the doctor at our dinner table tells us about a line-item veto on a budget for top-secret military operations to the tune of several billion dollars. I immediately thought: "Ah, that's where the black-ops program for the psi center special forces is." My second thought was: "If only." It's much like when you wrote that when you saw a newspaper article about Finland, you immediately connected it to what characters in your novel were doing. I know perfectly well that we don't have a secret program of genetically engineered supersoldiers, of course... But the parallel universe I set up in my head to keep track of the events of that world is still running.
On a stranger note, I was at a railroad museum in Calera, Alabama, when I chanced upon a discarded fifties-era SAC train car. It was silver and hads the Strategic Armed Forces logo with a gauntlet clutching lightning bolts. Turned out later upon questioning that the Air Forces discarded a number of their self-contained, self-supporting cars (the internal generators even still worked) when they were out of date and donated them to the museum. But my first thought was, "Wow! I've found Mulder's railcar from the episode with the alien!" Fortunately, I was with someone who had seen the episode and agreed with me, so didn't think I was completely out to lunch.
But I'm prepared to accept that my mind does not work like most people's, however. I just try to keep it under acceptable parameters.
2004-12-23 06:30 am (UTC)
Do you only choose time travellers who speak the languages you do? What language would you use with a Viking?
Sometimes I think what some people see as my imagination is actually my lack of imagination.
There are standard "universal translator/Babel fish" conventions that get around talking to a 30th century Korean. If I'm playing How To Establish Communication, that's a different game, and not the interesting part of Explaining To Time Travelers.
2004-12-23 06:31 am (UTC)
Mental Games: escapist and licence plate-y
Oh yes: I've played Time Traveller for at least twenty years, and Apocalypse! for about the same amount of time. Space Ship isn't quite as much fun as Time Traveller (I have a degree in medieval history, spot my bent), but I often play "Me In Someone Else's World" too, which is just a breath away from fanfic, I suppose, if I wrote it down. Large chunks of my inner fantasy life, in black and white on LJ.
My husband and I play tournament Scrabble, with this variant on the licence plate game: we try to find the shortest word possible in the three to four letters on the nearest license plate, and then the shortest word possible with the letters in the order they appear in on the license plate. It can be pretty challenging when the 'y' appears near the beginning but not at the beginning, for example.
It keeps us occupied in traffic.
He's a mathematician, so I'll ask him if he plays the number games with the plates, and hasn't told me yet. He may have yet another variation.
2004-12-23 07:25 am (UTC)
I don't have any of these that just come on automatically as life goes by. I've certainly played the "surviving the apocalypse" game and the "preparing to be sent back in time" game and the "winning the lottery" game and the "having 3 wishes" game and a number of other games, at various times, in my head. Most of them, except the winning the lottery game, turn out to be about how much work it is to try to just survive the breakdown of civilization, and rapidly convinced me I wasn't interested in being that kind of survivalist.
Don't play with numbers much. They're just theoretical constructs anyway.
I'm glad to hear that civilization is unlikely to collapse if you win the lottery.
Games I play:
"Translate phrases/sentences in one's surroundings into another language."
"What would it be like if I lived/worked here?"
"Who do I know that would like/hate this particularly much?"
"What cultures would find this acceptable/unacceptable?"
I also compose a lot of emails, conversations, and work/school writings in my head.
I played "what would it be like if I lived here" when I was little. The Åland islands were an extremely good version of that, because I could imagine myself on an island (that is, separate from people) but could stick other people I'd eventually want to see on different islands.
I also played "what kind of ent would that tree make" on the same trip because Norway and Sweden are both just jammed full of ents. You can scarcely move without seeing an ent.
When I was little, I played "What would be the best battle plan for this location?" (Hmmm...high ground over there...trees give some cover here...ooooh, pin them against that lake, there...)
I don't remember ents in Norway and Sweden. I did see a lot of likely troll lairs, though. Hmm. I was probably there later than you--that was 1994--so maybe the trolls had chased them off. (They could have taken the high ground and pinned them against the lake, but I'm guessing "take cover in trees" is not Successful Tactic #1 against ents...)
I play the license-plate game, without the length constraint but only with the letters in the right order.
I find patterns in strings of numbers.
I play "which of the people in this room would be most fun in bed," except when the selection is truly appalling.
And I play "anywhere but here," where I construct elaborate vacation trips to various spots on the globe. The most enjoyable version of this requires internet access; bonus points for actually persuading someone to take said trip with me.
2004-12-24 05:40 am (UTC)
I have to ask where you got your icon. It looks so much like a passageway in the Temple of Jove that we visited in Terracina, Italy.
Goodness, I thought Martin was the only person who looked at numbers and factored primes. When he can't sleep, he asks me for a four or five digit number, and happily factors until he falls asleep.
So I can have H and his wife V but not anyone blood related to them (fortunately, they have no kids). This is of course for the best genetic pool to refound civilization, right? So I should exclude those physically incapable of reproducing ever.
Of course really, I'd shoot the other 16 and in the ensuing chaos me and my Boy would make our get away. Nuts to the species, Momzilla kicks in. :)
Actually the family constraint started because I didn't want to have to include 14 blood relations out of 16 and feel guilty about my other 300 immediate blood relations when I was little. So they can all go on different spaceships.
On the license plate game, the rule I use is it has to start with the first letter and end with the last, and the shortest word wins. (A little silly, since I'm always playing it alone, my husband not being a word person. So I guess it's the word, not the person who wins.)
Anyway, there were too many plates that don't work at all so I amended the rules to allow multiple words - but still, shorter is better and one word beats two.
I also do contingency plans for horrible but unlikely events. (Like if (God forbid) Ted dies tomorrow do I stay here or move out of state?) I think I like Explaining to Time Travelers better, as being less depressing and probably as potentially useful. Or I write verse in my head but only if I'm working on one anyway, or plan a project.
I do contingency plans too. It often ties into "What would it be like to work/live here?"
For example, at the mall: if I worked at a department store, could I get away with sleeping in the furniture section (like the kids in the museum in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), eating at the food court, and washing up in the public bathrooms?
Or, driving home from work through various places(it's a bit of a commute): we could live *here* and I could take the bus to work, if my health were impaired such that I couldn't drive; we could live *there* in a cheap apartment and be able to walk to a library, grocery store, Reid's school, etc., if I lost my job and we had to sell our house and live off the equity; we could live *yonder* in a camper and shower at the YMCA...
Since middle school I have been known to play "Everything You See is Actually Constructed by Very Small People Engaged in Perpetual War". Sort of like Gundam, only the VSP prefer to build giant machines which just happen to be shaped like cars, trucks, light poles, etc. Can also be played with Lego, naturally.
This is more of a driving game as Ingebretson's is just too hard to explain as it is, let alone EYSiACVSPEiPW.
One might think that, having been together with you for around eight years now in one form or another, I would have had some inkling of this.
My brain does pattern-matching with numbers, which incidentally serves as a great way of remembering them. To take the first example to come to mind, 83,441, which is the number of chloroplast sequences in my new release, sticks because the two 4s make the 8, and the 3 and the 1 can make a 4, so it's kind of patterned ABCCB, and you have two sets of two making four [ at the pattern level ] which reinforces the two 4s making 8 at a content level. I'm glad I'm reasonably good at forgetting these because a couple of dozen of them pop into my mind every day. The longer the number the more such patterns and the better this works, which is why I'm very good with telephone numbers and lousy with birthdays.
Oh, and do tell us what you think of Iron Sunrise - have you read Singularity Sky ?
I have indeed read Singularity Sky, and I like Iron Sunrise at least as well. It kind of went together in an expected way at the end, I thought, but the result was still pleasing.
I don't play structured mental games as such, and I suck at nearly all things mathematical, so there is no way I would ever do the prime number thingy hoo-ha. I do play Yoga-based physical/mental "games," though, feeling where the weight is on my feet (usually rolling out to the outer edges), realigning my posture, and doing covert balance-shifts from one foot to another. I probably look like "Rain Man," but with a straighter spine.
My husband and I also tend to look at the world and see how our pets would play with it if they were there - excess fringy things at furniture stores and the like are referred to as "cat toys" and we note various instances where we think our dog would enjoy himself (small, sticky children just begging to be licked, for instance).
I am giggling at the prime factoring stuff. You have such an amusing brain.
As for me, my ususal brain game is either "explaining geek stuff to people" or "create fantasy worlds in my head". That can be quite fun. The time traveller thing, though...that's a nifty one.