28 June 2009

Is he a werewolf?

As it turned out, yes he was.

DL 1995

Columbus to Atlanta. It was really great spending time with old
friends. In a lot of ways, it felt as familiar as if 20 years hadn't
passed.

27 June 2009

Zooloretto

Very possibly the last game I will play at Origins 2009. Cute, quick,
simple, and as cut throat (or not) as you like.

Raffle Tickets

I find it staggering that it can be more economical to print these in
the UAE and ship them to the US than just to print them here.

Battletech pods

It is really hard to tell but this is Blaise getting in to a
battletech pod. He did ok; 4th out of 12.

Bob & Munchkin

Bob is the one on the left.

(link)

Roll Through the Ages

We spent some coupons for this game. It is a fun little game. And I
thought so before I took the lead on the last turn FTW. Blaise 18, Bob
12, Erik 23.

Risk Express

Blaise 19, Erik 16

Lunch

Back at North Market; I just can't bring myself to eat at the food
court now. Orange chicken and lamb curry.

26 June 2009

The Chain Game

Not a bad little party game. We made the second round which took
forever and was eventually called for time.

Lunch at North Market

Old School Wargaming

This was a Napoleonic game; didn't write the name down.

Pitch car 4

I won the game; finals are tomorrow. Winner of finals gets $150 gift
cert.

Lou Zocchi

At the dealer room at Origins 2009

25 June 2009

Small World

Erik 83
Blaise 92
Bob 89
Bruce 94

What is your integrity worth?

We all signed up for Basari, which meant we were about half of the people playing. I snuck into the second round when Blaise kinda locked up at the end of our game. This turned out to be an omen.

The game has a fatal flaw in that late in the game you can be eliminated from contention but still able to affect the outcome.

In the finals, I managed to corner the market on two kinds of gems so that while my score was the lowest, everyone knew that I would be scoring a lot later. As long as you maximize your own position, though, you are limited in how much you can hurt another player.

What you can do, though, is play sub-optimally to the benefit of a single opponent.

As the game neared the end, it became necessary to barter with an opponent. He determined that if we both played to win, neither would (see Nash). Instead, he offered to intentionally play poorly (which would allow me to win) in exchange for part of the prize for first (a $10 gift certificate usable only here this weekend).

I declined his offer, which meant I came in 3rd (just barely missing 2nd). The other guy came in last.

Sent from my iPhone

2nd Place

Is me!

Tournament Champion!

10 Days in the USA

Labrinthe

We also played Labrinthe last night. Blaise 13, Erik 10, Bruce 8.

ZOMG

I forgot to bring dice. I wonder if the sell them in the dealer room.

Sent from my iPhone

Fluxx You

Last night, Bob, Karen, Blaise, and I entered a Fluxx tournament at
Looney Labs. Karen and I made it to the second round but were both
eliminated before the finals.

Cosmic Wimpout

Last night, Blaise, our friend Bruce, and I played a game of Cosmic
Wimpout
. Bruce won handily.

24 June 2009

O-H I-O!

Off to Columbus with Blaise for Origins.

Yeah, we're geeks; you got a problem with that?

Rationing Health Care

Health care is already rationed. When a politician or pundit says something about rationing health care, they're manipulating not informing you. We (largely administered by for-profit insurance companies) ration it in the US based on money. For some procedures (e.g., cosmetic ones), this is appropriate. For others, not so much.

Regarding paying for and access to health care, I think some answers are easier than others.

Here is an easy one: all children, regardless of their parents' means, should have access to good health care. Without parents needing to go into debt. Or without being limited to an emergency room (where the care is subsidized and absurdly overpriced).

Here's a hard one: how much public-financed health care does an 85 year old smoker with lung cancer get? Any? Palliative only? Expensive surgery that may not improve quality or length of life? Who should decide?

Paul Krugman, with whom I only occasionally agree, points out that in many states health insurance is effectively a monopoly. In general, I still think free markets are the most efficient, but monopolies are not free markets. If too much government is bad (and it is), monopolies are arguably worse (though easier to remedy).

More to come...

23 June 2009

Health Care

I've got a lot to say about the current Health Care debate, but ponder this:

US health care spending is around 15% while in many other advanced countries it's 10% so call the extra spending 5% of GDP or $670 billion.
I doubt that many Americans would be surprised by this, but I am certain they (mistakenly) believe that we are materially healthier.

$670,000,000,000. Every year.

22 June 2009

It's Obvious, Right?

I've mentioned before that I like reading Jeff Attwood's stuff. Most of my readers (if indeed I have any left) are unlikely to follow his blog (dedicated as it is coverage of programming and human factors), so here's a poor version of what you'd have got if you did.

(1) Two fair coins are flipped. You are told that at least one of them has come up heads. What is the probability that the other has come up tails?

The original version is known as the "Boy or Girl paradox", but Wikipedia points out some problems with its wording in its writeup of this problem.

(2) There are three doors. Behind one of them is a valuable prize, behind the other two are worthless consolation prizes. The rules are that you will choose a door. After you have chosen one, but before your door is opened, an arbitrarily selected different door, one with a consolation prize, will be revealed. You are now given an opportunity to change to the other unopened door. Or you can keep your original choice. What is the probability that changing your selection will result in the valuable prize? Here is a link to the Wikipedia writeup this question, known as the Monty Hall problem.

Neither answer is 50-50; I wouldn't post this unless the answer is counter intuitive. In this case, especially so.

I'll be reading The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.

In Which I Get a New Toy


The purchase of which was mostly funded by a birthday gift from my mother (thanks, Mom!).

Long Overdue Moscow Pictures

The snow is long gone in Moscow; these were taken in early March. Hey, I said long overdue.

This is the abandoned building across from our Moscow office. The neighborhood of our Walsall office may be industrial and unattractive, but it's not burned out.


Here, Waddaah and Van get into what was quite obviously the wrong taxi. We ended up taking 30 minutes while the taxi driver argued with somebody on his mobile and then finally circling around to return us to the hotel so that we could get into the taxi that had been ordered for us. Some of us were feeling crapulous after too much beer and vodka and kvass at Cafe Pushkin Restaurant. OK, all of us were feeling crapulous (but some more so than others).

19 June 2009

Coincedence

While waiting for my iPod touch software update to download/install, I was browsing the web, and ran across this article, which includes a photo taken in front of our first house. You can see the same tree from the article on the far right of this 1989 photo, taken (as I recall) immediately after the act of sale.


Here is a satellite view (including the canal and the railroad bridge) from Google. On the Google view, you can drag the image to see the railroad bridge and one of New Orleans's massive pumping stations.

18 June 2009

Balancing the Budget

There is some grumbling, likely to get louder, that we ought to balance the budget. Ironically, this grumbling will come from Republicans who have mysteriously rediscovered their budgetary conscience, which had been absent when the last administration spent billions on the war in Iraq and lowered taxes.

The point of a stimulus package is to temporarily replace private borrowing/spending to diminish the impact of a recession. While there is evidence that we're nearing the bottom, that's not the same thing as being out of the recession. What's more, there is plenty of reason to believe that this recovery will be long and slow. Trying to balance the budget now would likely throw us back into recession.

In the long run, it is likely that the dollar faces some difficult times. The use of the dollar as foreign reserve of choice has propped the value of the dollar up, which in turn has given Americans a better standard of living than perhaps they deserved.

The countries holding substantial dollars in reserve are understandably uncomfortable with their dependence on the American economy, but they have deemed it the least bad choice. I think it likely that they will look to diversify, which will erode the dollar.

It is a tough road, fraught with peril. But we have made our bed and we must lie in it.

I welcome the idea that balancing the budget will be necessary, and look forward to the day when it is prudent to do so.

Krugman on balancing the budget and killing a weak recovery in the '30s.

15 June 2009

USA 1-3 Italy

The US held their own against the World Cup champions for the first thirty minutes. Unfortunately, a late and high challenge by Ricardo Clark earned a straight red. While he might have had a case for a warning, the sending off was not exactly a miscarriage of justice. Even down to ten men, the US had some small measure of menace. After Jozy Altidore was fouled in the box, Landon Donovan scored yet another penalty kick. Eight of Donovan's last ten international goals have come from the penalty spot, with another coming on a free kick. Coach Bob Bradley had to be relieved to hear the halftime whistle.

Unfortunately, while Italy had Luca Toni and (American born) Giuseppe Rossi on the bench, the Americans had nothing of the sort in reserve. Playing nearly two thirds of the match down a man, the Americans were fairly easy pickings for the Italians. The first goal was a terrific finish by Rossi, the second was mostly just poor defending by the Americans, and the final was a bit of genius by Pirlo finished well by Rossi. By the end, the exhausted Americans were out of energy and ideas.

It is a shame that Clark was sent off, as the Americans looked to have a chance until then. There is no rest for the weary; Brazil is next.

07 June 2009

USA 2-1 Honduras

Much better than Wednesday's debacle. In Costa Rica, the US looked disjointed and dispirited. The turf didn't help, but it was a sharp effort by Costa Rica and a poor one by the US that led to the result (3-1). The field in Costa Rica was a travesty - the ball bounced absurdly and passes shot past their targets.

Last night, the Jonathan fullbacks (Bornstein and Spector) were night-and-day better than the make shift selections Wynne and Beasley. Donovan was a constant threat. Except for a shocking gift of possession that led to the Honduran goal, Dempsey was all over the pitch. The finishing by the players up top wasn't good enough: the first goal was from a penalty on a clear hand ball in the box) and the second was a header by center back Bocanegra. Feilhaber, plagued by inactivity and injury over the past year, brough a spark to the midfield when he replaced Mastroeni.

The US deserved their win, and played well enough that they should advance to South Africa. On the other hand, they aren't nearly good enough to be much of a threat to Spain or Holland or England. There's time for the team to come together (and Edu and Bradley will be available). I think they have a chance to escape the group stage, depending on the draw of course, but it is hard for me to imagine that this team will do better than being eliminated in the first round. That would be better than their one goal, one point effort in Germany.

05 June 2009

Test Your Brain

http://www.testmybrain.org

Face recognition: 17/19 (and I only feel bad about one of the two I missed).

Approximate Number Recognition: 74% A few times I hit the wrong key (e.g., I was thinking blue but hit "Y"). Of course, there's no guarantee that I was right, but the test is a little tedious and I was occasionally impatient. I'd have predicted I'd do much better.

04 June 2009

Margarita

Tuesday night I made a Margarita, and I enjoyed it. I used Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe. Last night, Darcy O'Neil posted an article on that same drink. He describes three recipes, all of which omit the lemon. Requiring two different kinds of fresh fruit makes it much less likely that we'll happen to have the ingredients on hand when the mood strikes. I may try all three, but probably not in the same night.

01 June 2009

The Case for a Comfortable Chair

I was uncomfortable today.

Through a happy accident, our office is supplied with what was at one time the state of the art in office seating, the Herman Miller Aeron. It is deserving of its reputation: sturdy and comfortable. I say accident because if these chairs hadn't happened to have already been in an office we moved into nearly five years ago, they'd have bought some crappy uncomfortable chairs in the misguided belief that the difference in price is not justified. It's not so much that they're cheap, it's that they are fairly clueless (or maybe just skeptical) of the impact of the work environment to productivity.

After your mattress, though, your work chair is often the place you spend the second-most time. I travel a fair amount, and walk around the office for meetings and what not. I still probably spend 1,000 hours per year in my work chair. So call it, 4,500 hours so far. I am willing to pay, out of my own pocket, the twenty cents per hour to site in the most comfortable chair available. Of course, I can sit anywhere for a little while (the least comfortable seat I've used recently was the one from which I watched Barcelona beat Manchester United last Wednesday night). But after an hour or two, tolerable slides into excruciating. Sort of like flying coach across the Atlantic.

While I was out of town, a visiting colleague used my office. It's not my office, of course, it belongs to my employer. But I've been using it for a long time so it feels like its mine. This colleague adjusted my chair (ahem, my employer's chair in the office I use) because apparently, I like my armrests higher, the seat higher, and the reclining tension lower. Unfortunately, returning the chair to its previous settings is not trivial, and I'll probably spend the next few days trying to return everything the way it was.

I'll probably leave a sign on it the next time I go out of town.

Confession: Jeff Attwood made a much better case in his article.

Church Signs

There are a couple of Christian churches that I pass on my way to work everyday. They both have signs out in front which alternate between practical (Yard Sale This Week) and, well, let's say semi-spiritual. I noticed this morning that one of them has a sign, presumably since Memorial Day a week ago, that says "FREEDOM IS NOT FREE, IT IS PURCHASED WITH GREAT PRICE" (sic). I've noticed that frequently loud patriotism and loud professions of Christian faith go hand in hand. To the extent that I believe many American Christians believe that America's prosperity is due to divine providence.

The thing is, Jesus demonstrated a remarkable lack of interest in contemporary politics. Render unto Caesar, etc. Israel in Jesus's time was an occupied nation. Jesus never once said that Jews should throw off the yoke of foreign oppression. At the time there was a substantial (and clearly misplaced) belief that Jesus would return to institute the Kingdom of God so ephemeral concerns like Roman occupation would be moot.

Athletes occasionally thank God for their success, ignoring the near certainty that God doesn't care who wins sporting events. I think the religious-patriotism thing is similar.

One more (at best tangentially related) thing. It is remarkable that more pro-lifers are not absolutely mortified by this sentiment:
"George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions." -- Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue
Who would Jesus bomb?
Who would Jesus water board?
Who would Jesus assassinate?