Get Out! (Open the Pod Bay Doors)

In the school parking lot tonight, waiting for the bus to bring back my kid, I was checking out the vanity plates as usual and saw this thin little bumper sticker: U.S. Out Of VT. Which — even more than the sentiment — I liked for the simple alphabetical reason that V is the letter after U, and T is the letter after S.

Probably a complete accident, but this one-letter shift, in cryptography, is called a Caesar cypher, because J. C. himself used it to communiciate in code with his generals. Along the same lines, some people say the crazed computer in the film 2001, the HAL 9000, was named because the letters after H, A, and L are IBM. According to the Wiki, though, HAL’s creator Arthur C. Clarke (who should know) denies this. He says that the name comes from Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

Also according to the Wiki, in the French version of the movie, the computer was named CARL, for Cerveau Analytique de Recherche et de Liaison (“Analytic Research and Communication Brain”). This site says that HAL was originally female, and named Athena. (My son’s favorite god or goddess, by the way.)

Also by the way, the best vanity plates I saw tonight were BIODZZL (on a VW Jetta), and 48MPG (it was dark by then, but I think on a Prius).

* * *

p.s. These people certainly think it would be nice if the U.S. did get out of VT. I hope to get out of here soon myself.

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