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algorithm 1.1


Further on the matter of creating algorithms…

Among the books by my bedside is the Kanji Learners Dictionary by Jack Halpern. Don’t ask why I bought it.

Halpern and a large consulting group both here and in Japan have developed a system called SKIP or “System of Kanji Indexing Patterns” which enables the learner of this writing system to locate them in a dictionary format. Basically, it classifies also Kanji characters in one of four broad pattern types: Left-Right, Up-Down, Peripheral, or Solid. With that determination made, the learner then does a “stroke count”, that is, the number of brush strokes in the character. The SKIP system is more complex than that but at its core is the basis, it seems to me, of an algorithm, in my sense of finding patterns in complex systems. [There are 2,000 Kanji characters in common use, with thousands more that even native Japanese wouldn’t recognize.]

This diagram (not from the actual book) shows the rudiments of the system. I hadn’t thought of it this way before. But now I wonder about its application to the problem of “categorizing” several thousand plan forms of Akron-Auditorium churches.

Indeed, my matrix already goes part way toward this goal of creating an algorithm which might be able to generate A-A churches. Imagine, if you will, a matrix similar to this with sanctuary-auditorium types along the side and Sunday school configurations across the top and you see the application of this idea in a very different context. With six auditoria (based on the location of the pulpit) and three Sunday school shapes (180°, 90°, and what I call “saddle bags”), there are eighteen possible combinations and permutations, and a few subsets.

If Halpern & Co. can make sense of a complex writing system, allowing dictionary access to something that defies our alphabetical mindset, I can somehow make sense of a bunch of churches.

FOOTNOTE: Casually reviewing the book late last night I noticed what may be a side benefit of the SKIP system. There are, for example, only three strokes difference between the kanji for “water” and for “eternal”. Though that association may not have been an intent of the dictionary writers, it does allow someone like me, grazing through the book with idle interest, to understand how the Japanese may have related two not dissimilar concepts in a poetic sense.



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