20 August, 2015

The Baconian Cypher

After reading over some of my old blog posts, I felt inspired to write another cryptography post. I really enjoy the topic and I like keeping a record of codes I study with these little monographs.

In this post I will discuss the Baconian Cypher. I first heard about this cypher from an old Sherlock Holmes radio program by the same name. It was created by renaissance man, Sir Francis Bacon, hence it's name. Without further ado, I present to you the Baconian Cypher.

A   00000   G     00110   N    01100   T     10010
B   00001   H     00111   O    01101   U/V   10011
C   00010   I/J   01000   P    01110   W     10010
D   00011   K     01001   Q    01111   X     10101
E   00100   L     01010   R    10000   Y     10110
F   00101   M     01011   S    10001   Z     10111
Traditionally As and Bs are used for illustrating the cypher, but like Morse Code, one only needs to use a two choice operator, i.e. on/off, true/false, dot/dash, or as in my case, 1s and 0s, like binary. It is, in fact similar to binary, but I won't go into that right now. Because of this two choice operation, the cypher can be used in a wide range of uses. I'll be explaining the most common use of this cypher, which is hiding a message in non-related text.

Say I want to encode the word "now". I would take the pattern from N, O, and W, and it would look like this: 011000110110010.

Now take a text 15 characters long (because "now" has 3 letters and each letter of the encoded text needs 5 characters in the text, 3*5=15). I will use "A Study in Purple." including the period as an additional character.

I will leave the 0 letters as they are and then put the 1 letters in bold, but one could italicize them, underline them, or use a different font, so long as a distinction between 0s and 1s can be made. It looks like this:

"A Study in Purple."

This could can be used with a book: all one would have to do is underline letters (or even whole sentences) to form "1"s.

How to Refill a Pilot Varsity

I am in California right now and I don't have any fountain pens with me because I don't have a very good system down for traveling with my pens. But I miss them and I've been meaning to write this post for a while now. I also need writing practice for an upcoming ACT test. So here we go...

Things you will need:
  • An Empty Varsity
  • Paper towels (Ink can be messy)
  • Pliers (may not be necessary)
  • Pipette or eyedropper
  • Fountain Pen Ink

The Pilot Varsity is a really nice little pen for the price. They are "disposable", but they can get more use if you know how to refill them. Below is a picture of my two Varsitys, I have one that came filled with purple ink and another that came filled with blue ink. The original ink colour is indicated by the top of the cap. I scraped the grey coating off of the purple one, you can see the difference below. I will be refilling the purple one, so you'll get to see what it looks like inside.
Start out by removing the nib/feed from the pen body. You may need to use the pliers if this is the first time you are refilling. Make sure you cover the nib with a paper towel to protect it from the pliers. Then wash the nib/feed. I'm using a cup for the demonstation, but a sink works better, just be careful to not to let anything go down the drain. Seperate the nib from the feed and rinse until water is clear of ink.
 Pictured below is the feed with the nib removed.
 Rinse out the body and the cap. Let them air dry on a paper towel.
The Pilot Varsity has a unique wick feed. The ink is drawn down the wick to the nib, rather than the normal method of the writing paper drawing the ink from the feed.
Because of this feature, you need to make sure you rinse the wick out really well, especially if you want to refill with a lighter coloured ink.
I'm going to refill with Noodler's Dark Matter Ink. I wrote a review of it here.
 Use your pipette or eye dropper to fill up the body of the pen. Don't fill it past the little ridge on the body. As you can see, the ink doesn't fill the entire body, but the ink capacity is quite a bit compared to other pens.
Put the nib back on the feed. The Varsity has a medium nib size, but I think it is more broad than other Japanese mediums.
 Reassemble the pen. Make sure you get the feed all the way back in or it will leak.
 Let the pen sit upside down for about an hour to let the wick start drawing the ink.
That's it! When you first begin to write with it the ink may appear watery from water in the wick, but it should fix itself.

25 December, 2014

Handel's The Messiah

On Sunday my mother, sister, and I travelled to Kansas City to see Handel's The Messiah preformed by the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Preforming Arts Centre. Where do I begin!? From the beginning I suppose, the performance was at 2:00pm, and we arrived about an hour prior. Helzburg Hall is beautiful; it's modern in it's architecture, and the design is imaginative and unique. Now, of course, that's my opinion, but see for yourself here and here.

The first thing we did was check our coats into the cloakroom, which I discovered to be very underutilised. Afterwards, we made our way to our seats which were on the highest row of seating to stage left. Visibility was limited, but as the hall was designed, we lacked very little in sound quality.
The first violinist, Conductor Aram Demirjian, Soprano Yulia Van Doren, Mezzo-Soprano Abigail Fischer, Tenor David Portillo, and Bass Liam Moran were applauded onto on stage and the overture began. The tenor has the first recitative in the oratorio singing Comfort Ye My People followed immediately by Every Valley Shall Be Exalted. David Portillo sang it well, and added quite a few flourishes. Then the first choir recitative is sung: And The Glory Of The Lord. There is nothing on earth like being in a concert hall when a choir of over 100 people are singing (125 are listed in the program), the sound is so powerful you can feel it, it sends shivers down my spine, I'll rave about the Hallelujah chorus when I get there. Next up was the Bass singing Thus Saith The Lord Of Hosts and But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming. He did well also, but I've heard better recordings. After that, the Mezzo-Soprano sang But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming. Again, she did well, but the piece really does not not suit the mezzo-soprano, the contralto yes, and possibly the alto, but in my opinion, not the mezzo, besides the fact that I prefer this recitative to be sung an octave lower by the bass. Carrying on, after a chorus recitative, another alto, alto/chorus, and two Bass, is the first Soprano recitative, is There Were Shepherds Abiding In The Fields, and Yulia Van Doren was spectacular, she was one of the highlights of the evening for me! The Intermission was taken between the first and second parts of the oratorio, which is after the twenty first "part": His Yoke Is Easy, And His Burden Is Light. Some of the recitatives were changed either by omission or by being sung an octave higher or lower by a different singer, none in the the first part The Advent Of The Messiah were omitted or changed. Of the second part The Passion Of Christ the tenor recitative But Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul In Hell was sung by the Soprano (a change which I thoroughly enjoyed), parts 2/12-2/15 (34-37) which are traditionally omitted were in this performance, as well as the chorus recitatives There Sound Is Gone Out and Let Us Break Their Bonds. From the third part, Resurrection; Then Shall Be Brought To Pass, O Death! Where Is Thy Sting?, But Thanks Be to God, and If God Be for Us were omitted (which was too bad because I would have loved to hear Yulia Van Doren sing If God Be For Us). Other Notes: I have never heard Handel's Messiah played and sung so fast, I guess it was to keep the performance time reasonable, along with the omissions. The conductor was amusing to watch, he even left the ground at times. He apparently preferred the choir to be somewhat staccato, which was perhaps for clarity, I wouldn't know, in fact I don't think I can even give an educated opinion on him so I shan't. We all had a marvellous time. But truly, the best part was the Hallelujah chorus. Most of the audience immediately rose when it began, everyone else got the memo very quickly. The sound of over one hundred voices (including some of the audience) blended with the large pipe organ, almost drowning out the orchestra, the timpani boomed, and the trumpet's sound rose over it all. It was electrifying and absolutely magnificent!