Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I figured out why we're on this trip

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned the phone network before, but suffice to say James invented a number substitution code and a phone-based network that allows His Servants in positions of authority and responsibility (be they Touched, Taken or simply Servants) to keep in contact and get the low-down on colleagues passing through their care, and this whole trip is basically one long enrolment/update program for all of Australia to make sure it's still working okay.

I guess before he met me and went off the edge his paranoia really paid off, because the whole thing is as close to foolproof as I could’ve imagined.

Basically, if somebody is trying to crack the code, stealing a phone book from one of us isn’t going to help you at all, since everybody uses their own phone number (and one or two supplementary numbers containing any numbers their own doesn’t have) as a key. They keep the real ones in their head and write the code ones in their phone book, along with everybody else’s numbers which are also in code. Because everybody can remember two or three phone numbers without having to write them down, this all means there is no written key to steal, which leaves you with something in the order of 3628800 possible combinations you’d need to try to crack one number that can’t even hold all of the code in the best case scenario. Better yet, even if somebody gets sloppy and does write down the key numbers to allow a faster conversion, you still don’t know which key numbers correspond to which code numbers.

We also don’t substitute for the area codes in the landlines or the 04 in the mobile numbers, because that’d just give away some of the substitutions to anybody with half a brain. Oh, and for anybody who doesn’t live in Australia and thus cannot make sense of the previous sentence, an Australian mobile number starts with 04 and then has eight other digits (so, for example, would look like 04 123 456 78), while the typical landline starts with a zero and then a number corresponding to the state the phone is found in and would look something like this (01) 1234 5678, with the second digit in the brackets changing for each state.

It’s not a perfect system, by all means, because it relies on people doing what they’re told to keep keys separate from the coded numbers, but it’s as close as they come, considering the people being told to do it are almost universally wired to be obedient and find solving codes is almost second nature to them. It’s also not a perfect system because most of the numbers are for phones that have been destroyed, lost or are flat for 99% of the year, but it’s as close as we can get. I will admit being unable to contact people more often than not when I try to make a call, but when a colleague shows up with the number of the place he last stayed and I do manage to get through and am told he’ll try to kill me if I say the word ‘banana’, well, it really pays off.

And yes, that was a hypothetical example. I’ve never met anyone who would’ve killed me for saying ‘banana’. That’s just absurd.

Anyway. I’ve started writing up a synopsis of the past week or so and everything that’s happened (which is so, so much), but it’s nowhere near finished and is going to have to wait because I have to go (my laptop’s finished charging and that was all the time James was willing to give me here on the Internet). 

See you all soon, hopefully, and sorry about the hurried and half done post and the boring content. It's about 4:00 am in the morning right now and it all kinda ran away on me.


  1. I actually understood the bits about the phone numbers. Living in Australia is paying off!

    Glad to hear you're still okay. I have a tendency to worry about things, as you may or may not have already gathered, so it doesn't matter if you think this was hurried and half done, as long as you're showing us that you're still here.

    As always, stay safe.

    - Red

  2. Not boring at all, actually. That's a very good system.

    And this 04/0# thing reminds me of what I've seen back in Russia for service numbers (ie 01 for the fire department)

    It's wonderful to hear from you, Andrew. especially since from the sound of things you're not even hurt! :)

    Stay safe and sane, Andrew. You've got friends here.

  3. We've got a similar system going on here, with about three or more digits for every region of Germany. Important cities (like Berlin and Hamburg) do have three digits (Berlin: 030, Hamburg: 040) while little villages tend to have a lot more (Abtsdorf: 01349 or so). It's almost a little mean.