The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown


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Post December 13, 2007, 06:04:17 AM

The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

started reading this, and already like the backstory. also, everything's well described and laid out...a bit overly described for the people, in terms of skin color, hair etc.

but the premise is really interesting. one comment is that i'd substitute Chinese for Japanese in the announcements assuming this is occuring more or less along our timeline.
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Post December 14, 2007, 04:02:30 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

Overall, I liked the of the story. J. Alan Brown leverages some obvious parallels with current events, replacing Islamic terrorists with eco-terrorists. The undercurrent of xenophobic attitudes and the resultant rationalizations is a powerful theme. A modern reader will have no problem diving into this story.

The octal system, while interesting, really doesn't factor into the resolution of the story. It only becomes relevant if the number of bags exceed 8. The number 5 in octal is 5 in decimal (as a side note, 9 in decimal is 10 in octal). What is relevant is they start counting at 0, not 1. Also, the statement that they counted the spaces between the fingers is incorrect. Rather, the first finger is treated 0, not 1. If they indeed counted the spaces, then their mentality is based on their counts beginning at 1.

The elements of a good mathematical twist exist, but overcomplicated unnecessarily.

I was a bit surprised that shutting down the port for a few hours would have such a devastating impact. Airports today are delayed due to a number of reasons, even (or especially) during holidays. I can't think of any lawsuit that would be successful. If there is a bomb scare, the courts would be more than sympathetic. I'm sure a few yahoos would try, but "...lawsuits [going] on for a decade" seems outlandish.

I'm a bit torn on the flashbacks. On one hand, I enjoy innovative writing techniques, but in this case, I'm wondering if the story would read better if they were removed. The pacing seems disjointed.

Overall, a good, promising story.
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Post December 15, 2007, 12:51:10 AM

The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

the flashbacks were a nice touch for me, and the conclusion worked on me, i'm not math-inclined.

the racism and discrimination were also well portrayed, anyone who's lived in or traveled to a place where they stand out physically will sympathize. still, we're (mostly) human readers, and therefore i see no need to mention stuff like Mr. Brown being black and Rodriguez having a Spanish accent.
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Post December 17, 2007, 01:52:33 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

...The octal system, while interesting, really doesn't factor into the resolution of the story. It only becomes relevant if the number of bags exceed 8. The number 5 in octal is 5 in decimal (as a side note, 9 in decimal is 10 in octal). What is relevant is they start counting at 0, not 1. Also, the statement that they counted the spaces between the fingers is incorrect. Rather, the first finger is treated 0, not 1. If they indeed counted the spaces, then their mentality is based on their counts beginning at 1.


I think the ONLY relevant part of the discussion was the "counting spaces instead of fingers" remark. This, and this alone, is sufficient to account for the misinterpretation that drives the whole story. Sneaker signals "four"; Earther sees it as "five". The rest was unnecessary, but you can chalk that up to Academic Infodump, where an expert* tries to inflate his importance by dazzling the audience with trivia. (*The one in the story. Maybe J. Alan was trying to make the expert look like a jerk?)

...I was a bit surprised that shutting down the port for a few hours would have such a devastating impact. Airports today are delayed due to a number of reasons, even (or especially) during holidays. I can't think of any lawsuit that would be successful. If there is a bomb scare, the courts would be more than sympathetic. I'm sure a few yahoos would try, but "...lawsuits [going] on for a decade" seems outlandish.


And here I thought Jaimie was a resident of the Ewe Ess of A, land of the lawsuit and the huge settlement for trivial injuries. As an airport planner and former airline employee, I can tell you that the impact of closing a major airport for a few hours can easily run into millions of dollars. Airplanes and flight crews ain't where they need to be to fly downstream flights; flight crews need to be replaced as they exceed their maximum hours on duty for the day, so overtime and salaries for idle crew stack up; passengers and freight miss connections (and perishable freight ... perishes). Closing one major airport affects flight schedules across whole continents. Now, extend that to an air and SPACE port, where missing a launch window might mean a delay of weeks or months (or a much more fuel-hungry orbital path) ...

The flashbacks were a Rashomon tribute, I think -- showing events from different points of view. Of course, since the airport personnel interviewed were describing different events in the sequence from curb (entering the terminal) to gate (boarding the air- or space-craft), this is not entirely true... (the upcoming movie "Vantage Point" shows the same 15 minutes from six or eight different viewpoints!).

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Post December 19, 2007, 01:25:42 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

I think the ONLY relevant part of the discussion was the "counting spaces instead of fingers" remark. This, and this alone, is sufficient to account for the misinterpretation that drives the whole story. Sneaker sign als "four"; Earther sees it as "five". The rest was unnecessary, but you can chalk that up to Academic Infodump, where an expert* tries to inflate his importance by dazzling the audience with trivia. (*The one in the story. Maybe J. Alan was trying to make the expert look like a jerk?)

As to the 'the ONLY releavant part' part, I cannot but agree. With regard to the good doctor's behaviour,I in general think it quite hard when jumping into a subject to be right on mark. Chances are, you are just a bit off. I believe that's what happend to the good doctor. After all, the counting between the fingers and the use of the octal system are closely related. So he finds himself talking about the octal system and while doing so he realises he rather should be talking about the reason why the Sneakers use that system, and consequently does so. Happens quite naturally and unintentionally.
In addition, while mentioning number systems might be unneccesary, that helps to adjust the pace of the resolution to the pace of the story. Things would just move too fast if the good doctor just came rushing in exclaiming 'But he does show four! You know, Sneakers count between their fingers.'
...The octal system, while interesting, really doesn't factor into the resolution of the story. It only becomes relevant if the number of bags exceed 8. The number 5 in octal is 5 in decimal (as a side note, 9 in decimal is 10 in octal). What is relevant is they start counting at 0, not 1. Also, the statement that they counted the spaces between the fingers is incorrect. Rather, the first finger is treated 0, not 1. If they indeed counted the spaces, then their mentality is based on their counts beginning at 1.

Actually 9 = 1 * 8 + 1 * 1. Thus 9 in decimal is 11 in octal.
Also, I trust the good doctor's expertise when he states that they count the spaces. On the contratry I find in his words no indication of any differene in mentality between Sneakers and earth people with regard to where to start counting.
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Post December 20, 2007, 01:13:05 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown


Actually 9 = 1 * 8 + 1 * 1. Thus 9 in decimal is 11 in octal.


Yes, you're right. 8 in decimal is 10 in octal.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
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Post December 23, 2007, 09:02:31 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown


Actually 9 = 1 * 8 + 1 * 1. Thus 9 in decimal is 11 in octal.


Yes, you're right. 8 in decimal is 10 in octal.




Yeah, Jamie,

I noticed it too.  But that doesn't mean Robert wasn't right about the fact that the whole octal numeric system is a red herring.  The only really important facet of the 'Expert's' little diatribe is that they count the spaces between the fingers instead of the digits, themselves.

I didn't notice it at all until Vates pointed it out.

Good job!

That's usually MY job, but you beat me to it.

Three cheers for redundant systems!

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Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on December 23, 2007, 09:06:36 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post January 30, 2008, 08:05:22 AM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

This was a very enjoyable story; the idea of the Sneakers using the spaces between fingers to count instead of the actual fingers themselves was interesting. (Alien logic is always interesting - I like looking at the world in different ways.)

And the messups that occur when someone puts the wrong figure down on a form because they don't understand what happens on that form afterwards.

The reactions of the different people to the aliens were excellently done, I thought. The twist that they meant four bags and the lady hadn't counted them wasn't really a surprise, but the "spaces between the fingers" idea was new to me.

All in all, a really good story.

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