Winner From Yesterday’s Redshirts Contest

I had the missus, pictured here with Redshirts, pick a number between four and twelve; she picked eleven. Then I had her pick a number between zero and five; she picked two. Then I asked for a final number between zero and nine; she picked eight. Thus was 11:28pm picked as the winning time for the contest. Then I looked to see who had popped in at 11:28pm.

No one had. Fine, I thought, then I’ll just pick whoever popped in closest to that time. That person is:

Oldcoloradonews, who popped in at 11:26pm, two minutes out.

So congratulations sir or madam, you are the winner! Now all you have to do is send me a note from the same e-mail address you used to leave the message, with your physical address and actual name, the latter for signing purposes, the former to give USPS something to do with its time. Send you note to “,” if you please.

Thanks to everyone for playing. I may give out a couple more trade paperbacks of Redshirts between now and the 15th, so keep on your toes and check back frequently to artificially inflate my visitor stats for your next chance to win!

45 Comments on “Winner From Yesterday’s Redshirts Contest”

  1. Wait! No fair! That was not a randomly chosen post . . . it was a very specifically chosen post!

    Plus, there are number biases to consider, and predisposition for “special” numbers.

    Man . . . if only I would have known!!.

  2. Conga rats, Oldcolaradonews. (Took me a minute to parse that nym in my head). I missed commenting yesterday, but the book’s a great and fun read. Got it in e-book form. If you haven’t already read it, you’ll enjoy it. If you have, you’ll still enjoy it.

  3. Hmmm . . . any special reason why, or is it just me in general?

    . . . uh . . .never mind; sometimes it’s best not to know. Thanks for liberating me . . . there’s a bunch of minorities who could use your services.

  4. No percentile dice in the house? There is a very good random number generator online, but I suppose in this application convenience and amusement value is more important than randomness. Perhaps the next one should be based on cat behavior, or the striations of fat in a strip of bacon. A good geeky method is to flip a coin a bunch of times to build a number in base 2.

  5. To really inflate your numbers, you could actually give out a bunch of the arcs you get. Think of the contests! The last two digits of your grocery bill, The time of day of the next telemarketing call. The number of begging posts between midnight and 8am tomorrow. The mind boggles.

    On the other hand, think of the time taken away from writing us another wonderful novel, and forget I suggested such a silly thing.

  6. I wonder what will happen when the actual hard copy of book is no longer produced? I think this may happen. Margaret Atwood has a machine of sorts that dispenses her virtual signature from a remote location as she finds book signings draining and unpleasant, (a position I find to be difficult to empathize with) but I think in the near future signing a hard copy book may not be possible. Maybe holographic personal messages? Or maybe having a particular peice of art to accompany the book with a space designated for signing. This could be sold as a hard copy print and would be good for artists.

  7. Disperser is right; schemes based in time of post tend to favor those who post at unpopular times if we assume the random number generator is fair. On the other hand there are 896 posts in the giveaway comment thread. So suppose we generate a number between 1 & 896 (or however many posts arrived during the time of the contest) and we get 650. Unless John’s user interface includes a post number, he would need to count 650 posts. Oh what fun!

  8. @Mike
    Since the posts are listed in an <ol> tag, a simple ‘save as’ to text will generate a 1 to n numbered list of posts (at least in Firefox).

  9. @Disperser
    Reminds me of the character in Cryptonomicon that finds a way to decrypt a message because the human random-number generator starts picking numbers that look random, rather than numbers that actually are random.

    For us to exploit patterns like that, JS will need to run a bunch more contests. There’s a plan the rest of us can get behind!

  10. @U2NhbHpp
    Next contest, I’m posting every minute . . . actually, every 42 seconds seems the optimal number. At least that’s what my computer tells me.

  11. Congratulations, Oldcoloradonews!

    Real random number generation is hard! A Van Neuman Fair Coin procedure is one of the simpler (but not very efficient) ways. For this example, you’d need ten bits to generate 0..1023, and that would take roughly forty coin flips. (Two flips of a physical coin giving you roughly half a bit.)

  12. So what was the comment total? The statistically inclined want to know, and can’t seem to find a number on the post itself. Based on the scroll bar and the number of comments I know were there when I posted mine, looks like it might have topped 1,000?

  13. To be fair to Margaret Atwood she is 74 years old and frankly if she doesn’t want to travel Iqaluit to sign books and would rather stay in Toronto I think that’s reasonable. She does do a lot of travelling already for a person of her age, and hey – she invented the Long Pen why not use it?

    But on to much more serious things.. I think I missed out on that paperback by just a few minutes! Dangnabbit!

    Ah well… I guess I’ll have to make do with my Kindle version until next time…. :-)

  14. @Shannon Leight
    896, including JS’s final comment. See my note above for one way to get the number. There may also be some CSS tricks that’ll do something similar.

    You are correct, generating your own truly fair random number is difficult. Check out, they have a publicly-accessible generator based on atmospheric noise.

  15. @ Kathleen. You know I never considered her age. 74. Okay, so I guess she’s more than entitled to not want to travel. Ha ha, I need to go and dislodge this foot from my mouth.

  16. @U2NhbHpp: Ah, a pity we didn’t even hit 900. Thanks for the number. Your idea doesn’t work in Internet Exploder, alas. I just get a plain text copy of the post and comments. Also, I generally know enough to code a link to open in a new window. Beyond that…I have no idea what CSS or tag are. If you want me to make you a spreadsheet that will do everything but clean your toilet, I’m your girl, but I can’t code anything beyond VBA. Which I know is Programming Lite. My father does mainframe programming in assembly language. I am very aware that VBA is not real programming. :)

    Also, I googled your name. I learned that margaritas have 250 calories and that you comment on Whatever a lot. While being a fan of Whatever is certainly a recommendation as to your character, I somehow don’t think that’s the information I was supposed to get. Unless the whole point is to stump people, in which case you succeeded admirably.

  17. Lately it seems like more and more of the books I want are coming out as trade paperbacks but never as mass market paperbacks (there’s a whole class being released in almost-mass-market-but-an-inch-too-tall). Is there a reason? Will Redshirts be coming out as a mass-market paperback?

  18. I just looked up the Van Neuman procedure. It is a neat solution, but I think 1 bit per toss is more than adequate for this purpose, provided the coin is tossed and not spun. I think we can be reasonably satisfied with a one bit per toss procedure on Superbowl Sunday as well.

  19. @David Karger 7:20:

    I think trade paper is the size at which publishers can maximize their profits, which is why they’re increasingly going for that. I don’t have the math on that, though.

    MMPB with an extra inch is a step short of large-print. They still fit in the slots in bookracks at the drug store, but the extra tall means the print can be larger while keeping the book the same width and depth. It’s for people who are finding that their eyeballs (along with other things) aren’t as flexible as they used to be.

  20. There are people who can toss a coin so that it lands same or opposite (of how it sits on their thumb.) You have to put a lot of spins on the coin to approach the 51% heads that’s “natural” (due mostly to the weight distribution in an actual coin.)

  21. @Shannon Leight
    The ‘google my name’ trick used to work a bit better, before I muddied the waters. You need to get rid of the places where it’s a username, so try this in the search box:
    U2NhbHpp -whatever -sherred
    The five remaining entries have something unexpected in common – that’s the puzzle. There used to be more than five; like I said, this trick used to work better.

  22. As a wise man once said, the generation of random numbers is too important to be left
    to chance.

  23. htom, by spun I meant spun on its edge on a table. I assume that in tossing a coin you do want it to spin.

    The existence of people who can cheat a coin toss doesn’t mean that a person intending to toss a reasonably fair coin can’t do so.

  24. Congratulations Oldcolaradonews funny I usually post later oh well wasn’t meant to be. I was surprised it didn’t reach a 1,000 also. Well I’ll just get my copy for my new Kndl though I REALLY wanted the signed copy sigh……….. Well John how about the idea of signed pose off posters I know a lot of us would just love a signed one of those-How about it?

  25. Congrats to the winner! Miss Geeky was running a contest for a copy of Redshirts, too, and I won that one. Super excited to read this, it’s been on my list for a while. :D

  26. Oh, to have posted
    At eleven twenty-eight
    Trade paperback bliss

    Suggestion for next contest. All entries must be in haiku form.

  27. Mike — even number of turns, keeps same side; odd number “flips” the coin. As a practical matter, I usually use several differently colored d6 in a two-liter bottle and shake it up and down, counting only one die (say, the blue one) with 123 a H and 456 as T.

  28. I did the search ad U2NhbHpp described and came up with hits for establishments called Hotel Scalzi.

  29. Seems fair to me. Except in the sense that I didn’t win. Nothing is really fair, obviously, if I don’t win.

  30. Mike pretty much hit it – all of the results have something to do with ‘Scalzi’. Among others, there used to be a Russian video site in the list that featured a talk from JS, and some Korean site that had a bunch of ‘Scalzi’s mixed into the Hangul.

    The next puzzle: How did we get Google to search for Scalzi without typing in Scalzi? The answer’s not that exciting, and pretty geeky, so it’ll fit right into this thread.

  31. “The next puzzle: How did we get Google to search for Scalzi without typing in Scalzi? The answer’s not that exciting, and pretty geeky, so it’ll fit right into this thread.”

    Me? I just search for “whatever”. No Scalzi required, but I admit, not very exciting. And possibly cheating.

  32. @Shannon – puns in Italian! I’m impressed (and admittedly a bit lost until you explained).

    Searching for ‘whatever’ is pretty effective, but it returns some non-Scalzi results. My version uses base 64 – as noted, geeky. Here’s a decoder.

  33. Now I’m impressed. Properly capitalized and everything! ;)

    That was fun, though I think my brain cramped in a few places. I actually skipped the decoder and made my own so I could understand what was happening. Wikipedia was very helpful, as was Excel. I’ve never played with binary before, besides understanding the basics of 1s and 0s, and I’d never heard of base 64. I learned something new today!

    In the process of messing with this, I noticed that the only difference between the ASCII for upper case and lower case letters is a 1 in the 32nds place. Interesting! Though probably only to a noob. I discovered this because I started by doing John’s name in all caps, then had to start over with the lowercase letters. Ooops.

    Thanks for sharing that with me, it’s very cool!

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