Keeping Myself Amused While I Swim

Last year, I counted my lap-swimming lengths in base 12. Base 12 is actually a very nice base to use to count for my lap-swimming.  I swim 40 (12) lengths of the pool (that is 48 lengths or 24 laps).  I prefer to count lengths, because in one direction, the number is always odd and the other direction, it is always even.  It is easier to keep track that way.  My husband thinks that is incorrect and he is probably right, but he is welcome to count any way he pleases, and so am I.

The reason why base 12 was so convenient for me was that the 40 (12) laps (which are really lengths, but laps are easier to write) took me around 40 minutes.  So each of the 4 10 (12)s took me around 10 minutes and I could easily keep track of whether I was on pace or not.  On days when I felt pretty good, I could pick up the pace and on tired days, after a particularly difficult subbing day, I could slack off, but not too much.

Base 12 counting required a bit of an adjustment in terms of number words.  When you count in hexadecimal, the numbers are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, 10.  I could have just used A and B for 10 and 11 (base 10), but I decided that those letters didn’t mean much to me.  So I switched to D for dek and E for elf.  Dek reminds me of the metric system based on base 10 and it was perfect for the number that is one more than 9.  Elf is the German word for eleven and besides being perfect in meaning, it is also short and easy to remember.

So, the only word I still needed was a word for 10 (base 12).  I chose duz for dozen.  Since base 12 embodies the concept of dozens, I thought it was a good choice.

While I was changing the names of things, I also made the wording a bit more sensible.  In English 17 is pronounced seven-teen.  The seven, in spite of being second in the number, is said first – and then the ten part.  I changed the pronunciation of the duzth numbers to duz-one, duz-two, etc.  It makes more sense and conforms with the rest of the nomenclature better.

The thing that was especially interesting to me about base 12 was the ability to name fractions for how much of my swim I had finished.  It is easy to reduce some fractions in each number base and harder to reduce others.  4 laps out of 48 (base 10) is 1/12 of the swim.  4 laps out of 40 (base 12) is 1/10 of the swim.  3 laps out of 48 (base 10) is 1/16 of the swim.  3 laps out of 40 (base 12) is 1/14 of the swim.

Since swimming laps isn’t always a very fascinating way to get exercise, counting and doing fractions in base 12 was a way to keep myself amused while I was swimming.  Other things work, too; I just really enjoy number bases and this proved to be interesting to me.

This year, I decided to switch and count my laps in octal. I sometimes change the names of the units to match the number base, so 50 is pronounced 5-oct-null. Today, I swam a sq-oct.  I decided that 100 (base 8) needed a different name from hundred, so I decided to use part of the word square to designate 100, since the place value of the 1 in that number is the square of the base.  So it is a sq-oct – and can be pronounced squawked.  I am easily amused.

So far, I have found that base 12 had more interesting fractions to compute and reduce.  But I am still getting used to counting in octal and more interesting things may come up as it becomes more routine and requires less concentration just to remember to change directly from 27 to 30 and from 37 to 40.

Yes, this is probably my most bizarre post, but, again, I find it amusing.  So there.


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