Quantum Loop: Entry 2a

Theorizing that one could time travel within their own lifetime, Doctor Sham Breakit stepped into the Quantum Loop accelerator… and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mere images that were not his own, and driven by unknown source code to arrange history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Hal, an observer at run-time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sham can see and hear. And so Dr. Breakit finds himself looping through life after life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next loop… will be the loop $home.

Sham found himself sitting at a desk, facing an unknown person. Of course, everything was unknown to him at this point – he’d just looped into a new situation. He would now have a certain amount of time to fix whatever needed fixing, and when his quantum was up he would loop to his next assignment. At least his life was predictable that way.

“So, what’s your answer?”

Now if only he could predict an answer to that. “Oh boy?” Sham ventured.

The man across from him rolled his eyes. “It’s not that complex, be rational,” he pressed. “Do you think there’s a real need for another floor?”

“Uhmmm… no,” Sham decided. He hoped Hal would show up soon.

“Fine. Then we have the whole thing?”

“Naturally,” Sham continued, feigning nonchalance.

The man stood, picking up and closing a briefcase. He then grabbed an extendedcase and stated, “All right, I’ll send the schematics in. Thanks, Ray.” And after a quick handshake, Sham’s unknown visitor departed.

Sham looked around the office he was in. It seemed fairly spartan, and poking around through a couple of sheets didn’t enlighten Sham as to why he was here, nor did any pieces of paper. It seemed to be sometime back before 1970 but no year leapt out at him. So it was a relief when Sham heard the imagine chamber door open, signifying the presence of Hal Calalilli. At least, it was a relief until Hal walked out onto one of the walls.

“Hal, stop acting irrationally,” Sham sighed.

“I’m sorry, Sham. I can’t do that,” Hal intoned, punching at his TI-85 calculator with a vexed look on his face.

“Why? What’s going on?” Sham wondered, twisting his head to the side in an attempt at viewing an upright version of his friend.

“It’s this Y2K bug!” Hal declared. “BigE, your parallel hybrid computer is going nuts! You really should have made Project Quantum Loop Y2K compliant, Sham.”

Sham boggled. “I thought it was. Is it really the year 2000?”

“Whoops. Uh, yeah,” Hal admitted. “At least it is where we are, but there’s very limited data on where you are.”

“That’s normal,” Sham pointed out.

Hal made a face, as he was growing edgy. “You’re in Mizuloo,” he revealed. “At the University of Mizuloo to be precise.”

“Hm. Haven’t I been in Mizuloo before?” Sham wondered.

“Yes actually, but it won’t be for about 30 years,” Hal confirmed. “Right now it’s the 1960s and your name is Katho D. Toobe. But everyone just calls you “Ray”.”

“I see. Anything else?”

“Actually, yes. BigE has locked out all but the backup systems under a strange numerical password, and we were hoping you knew how to figure it out.”

“Strange? How so?”

“We have to enter the first composite Fermat number. But no one at the project recalls exactly what that is or even how to figure it out.”

“Oh, I can give you the answer,” Sham assured reassuringly.

What is the answer? Will Sham figure out what he has to do? Will the Project survive Y2K? Find out next time…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[This was Sept 24, 1999, leading up to Y2K. When we were worried all the computers would think ’00 meant 1900. Also in this issue were “Cynic’s Corner”, “Everything One Needs to Know in Life Can be Learned by Reading mathNEWS”, and the flippin’ mastHEAD itself because I was the sole editor (HoloEd) for the first time. I have no idea why I decided to run a serial on top of all that responsibility back then… maybe to fill space.

In somewhat related news, between my last post to the mathtans blog and this one, Dean Stockwell passed on. The main “Holo” of my HoloEd (Voyager’s doctor aside). That was a gut punch, but 85 years is a good run. This “Loop” retelling is for you, Dean. Rest in peace.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1 Bonus

You may recall that Entry 1a featured an early sketch of what would end up becoming the cover of the issue. How did I still have that? Well, I kept a few of my old notes from that time, along with the mathNEWS issues themselves.

So I present to you here a little bonus, a scan of how some parts of the story were created.

I went in with no plan or plot. I sort of devised one, around the time the characters themselves were questioning whether there was a plot, in issue 4. Here was the plan for Issue 5:

You can see I went double spaced, so as to be able to add and change items as plot (or more likely puns) demanded. Using statistical terms like “the population” instead of “others”. I even had the final moral for Issue 6 worked out there on the second page.

As far as the issue 6 rough work, I’ll offer just the second page:

You’ll note a number of statistical terms at the top, gradually getting crossed off, along with the usual things like “I have a hunch” becoming “My expectation” to better fit with the theme.

In the end, I DID write a mathNEWS column entitled “How to Derive a Taylor Series”, in 2001, with some tips for how to come up with similar columns. I will probably include it as a post here on the blog, once we complete our serial parody run. Unless you think that would be a terrible idea. (If so, what should I do instead?)


By the way, anyone wondering about the status of “Time Untied” here? (The “Time & Tied” sequel.) I thank you for your patience.

After 150,000 words I’ve kind of unofficially split the sequel into another offering, “Time Denied”. Since the first outing got chopped into two (then four), I suppose that comes as no surprise. The break was done at a reasonable place, narratively. Yet there is still the chance that the earlier material might get affected by later words, because time travel, so I don’t feel I’m in a position to release it yet. Plus knowing what’s to come is letting me flesh out the subplots.

NaNo 2021

One subplot that seems to be going strong is the Carrie-Chartreuse-Peaches triangle. You’ll recall the first two characters were dating after “Time & Tied”, while I’ve mentioned the new Peaches character in passing. We’ve reached the point where I’ve tried putting the characters into ArtFlow, and then used them in making a cover for NaNoWriMo 2021 (yes, I’m tackling the story yet AGAIN this month).

Conversely, one subplot that’s working less well than I thought is the entire situation with Jenny Irving. It’s kind of entrenched though, so I’m not sure what more to do with it. Then there’s the race situation with Sherlock… maybe I’m trying to do too much here.

I hope it’s all working. I probably need more beta readers. If you’re interested, let me know.

Meanwhile, on this blog in numbers, September 2021 was through the roof for pageviews, at 562. With someone (or maybe multiple people) reading through “Time & Tied” and “Virga” along with some Epsilon. In October 2021 we were back to “normal” with 42 pageviews overall. Putting us on track for another typical year, maybe 1,500 views… where a third of them were in a single month. Wild. Thanks for checking me out, binge reader… are you even reading this?

I just have no time for publicity. The pandemic ensures Teaching and Parenting is all I have time for, with a bit of writing time clawed out. (This despite me shifting to part time… it’s insane.) I’ve already queued up the remaining posts for 2021, so no worries there… tell your friends, I guess? About the blog? If you like the writing? And as always, thanks for reading.

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[We now continue with the mathNEWS serials, already in progress.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1f

Term Termination

Ana stopped when she saw the visitor.

“I’m just here to process a package,” Max said tentatively.

“It’s Sir Vay tampering,” Elly quickly noted, getting to the root of the problem. “Ana, you have to break it off with him.”

Ana nodded marginally. “I had planned on doing that in any event.”

Max stared. “What? You mean your relationship’s been regressing?”

“No, it’s come to a standstill,” Ana corrected. “I mean, he’s not only a blockhead, he’s too dull.”

“You specified that same indicator for the others,” Elly reminded.

“Well, it was true then, too,” Ana retorted. “Plus that Stu Dee was a likely hood and Sam Pull spaced out continuously – all he talked about was Data, Picard and his graduate hypo thesis.”

Max laughed. “Well, if you want a life of interest maybe you should find a PI.”

“You know a Private Investigator?”

“Well… me,” Max admitted. “There’s often some excitement like my last box plot at a bar…”

“That sounds interesting,” Ana reflected. “You must know lots of angles!” She paused, then asked, “And you don’t have a bias against models, do you?”

“Of course not; that’s not right. Actually, I’d be obtuse not to say you’re a cute one,” Max said reflexively.

Ana raised an eyebrow. “Do tell,” she encouraged. With a wink at Elly she guided Max out of the room. Dr. Waterson arrived in time to see the couple depart.

“Doctor!” Elly recognized. “What causes this visit?”

“I’m just checking… are you the one who weighed items in pounds then changed this to grams?”

Elly looked abashed. “That – and the other things, no doubt – were me, working independently. But it won’t happen again.”

“Oh?” Dr. Waterson appeared skeptical. “Why?”

“It’s elementary, my dear Waterson,” Elly responded. “My expectation is that my sister’s relationships have stabilized, so I have nothing further to distract me!”


And Electra Lysis was correct: she became a practical, dependable worker while Max Value and Ana Lysis were a classic couple. A further Sir Vay sabotage setup earned him trials and a fine. And Dr. Waterson returned to work at l’H^opital Central, limiting the remaining small problems until another large one revealed itself.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t let a model relationship get STATic.

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[A couple items here should be clarified. Picard was one of the math servers, named after C. Emile Picard, so the Trek reference is actually the joke, not the starting point. I still laugh at that whole paragraph though, works better than “histograms” which was really forced in later. Also, it was a long way to go to get the “elementary” at the “High’s Cool” resort.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this… because there was a sequel with the same characters written exactly three years later, in January 2001. See how I left myself an opening at the end there? Next up, some background info.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1e

…not anti-longed

Electra Lysis walked into Room 231, put down her things and closed the double blinds. Then she flipped on the TV to see what was on the Mr. Rogers [TM] Cable Neighbourhood. Coming to the realization that there was nothing on the Life (serial) channel, she reached for the remote… as a man burst into the room and stumbled forward a pair of meters. He seized a package from the table. “Ana!” he shouted as he opened it. “You must not use this… lemma merangue pi?”

“That’s a parcel from my grandmother – Gran U. Larity,” Elly stated, perplexed. “She’s into pi and cayenne distribution. Who are you?”

“Er, I’m Max,” was the response. “Trying to intercept a Sir Vay package for Ana. Who are you?”

“Ana Lysis’ sister, Electra. What relation are you to Ana’s steady? That guy’s unnerving… I’m getting worried about heteroscedasticity.”

Max blinked. “I don’t know what that measure meant.”

“I think there’s a pattern in how Ana’s relationships vary,” Elly clarified.

Max shook his head. “Electra? Complex…”

“Meaning,” Elly sighed, “that they never last. I’d estimate – or approximate – it was three weeks with both Stu Dee and Sam Pull. So her time with Sir Vay is almost up.”

“I guess that’s characteristic,” Max acknowledged.

Elly sighed. “It’s getting such that I can’t concentrate on my work… the other day I got a hopital’s normal distribution charts mixed up with student tea distributions!”

“Chi…,” murmured Max.

“My job assessment can’t be good to say the least. So, just what is her latest companion up to?”

“Well, he was upset when he found out Ana was an imperfect model. So he knit a hideous looking ‘sigma’ hat – white, but with lurking variables that will glow in the dark. He hoped to embarrass her and horrify the local population… both those events cueing the breakup of their relationship.”

Elly gasped. “That’s a cue-cue plot! You sure you’re not gaussing?”

“Beta believe it.”

Elly rolled her eyes. “Typical. They always give up on Ana when they observe her modelling is experimental.”

“So… the package?” Max pressed, looking very antsy.

“Oh, the one by the matches has been here since I arrived.”

But as Max turned to get it Ana walked into the room. “Would you believe it?” Ana commented. “I was so rushed to leave I grabbed a wrong ski – isn’t this Ron’s ski?”

“Wonder what the likelihood of this was,” Elly sighed.

To be concluded…

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[Nothing to add this time. Are you amazed how it’s suddenly coming together? Me too. We’re almost done.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1d

I don’t know C…

Electra (or Elly as she was known) slapped her $50.00 fee down on the counter in the ‘High’s Cool’ ski resort foyer and rang the service bell. After ringing three more times, a person finally came forth. “Sorry,” the receptionist, Bern Oulee, apologized. “We’re understaffed. A lot of people are against the testing of a 160-hour work week.”

Elly blinked. “And you’re working because…”

“I’m pro-testing.”

Elly sighed. “Well, as long as this deviation from protocol isn’t standard,” she relented. “Now, is Room 231 finally ready?”

The receptionist scanned the log book with e’s and nodded. “Electra and Ana Lysis? The room’s been made up; you even have a parcel waiting there.”

As Elly processed this, her sister turned to her. “Well, my assessment of the situation is that we’ll have at least two hours until dinner,” Ana observed.

“Er, good estimation…” Elly said, experimentally.

“Well then, I’m going to rise over ski runs and thus observe slopes. Maybe give them a trial run.”

Elly nodded. “Then I’ll move our articles to our room.”

That decided, the two sisters parted ways as another individual entered on the other side of the foyer. He was visibly upset. “First my flight gets PPD; A.C. will hear about that,” Max complained. “Then those confounded crankshafts! Causing crazy car collisions, creating chaos… I hope I’m still in time…”

He approached the receptionist and paused for a confidence interval. “I’m Max Value,” he finally said. “Has anyone named Ana Lysis been by?”

Bern Oulee raised an eyebrow – there was no expected Value in his log book. “You just missed your target,” he said guardedly. “Her room is 231 but…”

“Why… aie!!” Max gasped, running off. What were the odds in catching her? He hoped there was still the time to perform any pivotal function required…

He almost ran into a short haired woman in his charge to the elevators, but Dr. Waterson paid only marginal attention to their encounter. She’d had a good derive down in a rented ford from Tilde. She proceeded to the counter and greeted the receptionist. “Hi, I’m booked in Room 230 and I’m looking for an Electra Lysis.”

“Figures. Room 231,” came Bern’s standard response. He shook his head. “Is there some sort of plot here?”

“Not that I know of,” the doctor replied, moving off.

Bern sighed. “All the flakes aren’t in the snowdrifts.”


To be prolonged…

–Alia S. Choir

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[NOTE: We’ve moved from STAT230 into STAT231. This was also the mathNEWS issue where names were changed to draw attention to the 1997 Teachers’ Strike in Ontario… we posed as “replacement” workers. “Alia” was the Evil Leaper on Quantum Leap, while “S Choir” is from Bill S. Preston Esquire. And no, there is no plot. That you can spot yet.]

General l’Hopital: Entry 1c

Apparently, to be…

Max sat at the restaurant table, picking at his fishbone. Earlier, he’d resorted to calling the resort, where apparently a re-sort of schedules had delayed Ana Lysis’ arrival. So Sir Vay’s knit wit present, while pre-sent, hadn’t been presented. So now Max was waiting for his contact – Mr. Y.

Max requested a dessert sample, then returned to gauging the situation. He didn’t understand why Sir Vay was rejecting Ana simply because she was a model – apparently something about a model’s imperfection. Well, he would rectify matters.

A ghostly apparition abruptly appeared, apparently appraising apples and apprising all of assonance applications. Max almost applauded. “I have reservations coming here…,” Y noted.

“No, I made the reservations,” Max corrected. “Care to sit and have a treat?”

“No, no time for tricks. Here’s your departure component.” Y put a ticket on the table then moved off in a random direction.

Max blinked. “Not staying for at least squares…?”

“I’m involved in a scatter plot,” came Y’s response. And he was gone.

Max picked at the residual of his meal. Well, now he had the means – he supposed he should get to the resort as soon as he could…


Doctor Waterson walked into the absolute value bar and glanced around. It hadn’t taken too long for her to determine that there existed a correlation between all the strange h^ospital events and one particular orderly on the night shift. Even the accidental labelling of “poison” jars to have an extra “s” in the middle could be explained. And the current assumption was that the orderly frequented this bar.

The Doctor walked up to the bartender and produced a diagram. “Do you know this person?” she asked.

The bartender blinked. “Count on it. I see her with relative frequency. Last I knew she was off to the ‘High’s Cool’ ski resort.”

Dr. Waterson frowned. She knew of it… the slopes were pretty easy compared to later places she’d found herself. Well, she might as well go and verify her hypothesis there… with a quick acknowledgement to the bartender, she departed – as another patron entered.

“Norm!” greeted the bartender. “What did you do for dinner tonight?”

“CS,” Norm grumbled.


To be… or C?

–Greg “hologrami” Taylor

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[NOTE: Still leaning into Statistics jokes. This was also near Halloween.]