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Archive February 2003
Wednesday 26 February 2003
Having just finished a test-run of Bees! with Holly, the rules have undergone a few minor refinements and tweaks. It mostly worked quite well, though.

The first glitch was that very little was done with the Drones - bringing them to bear would take so many turns that you'd be losing to Warriors in the interim. The fix for that (as yet untested) was to make it so that Drones can advance in groups, as well as pushing that way.

The only other major problem was that the endgame took an inordinately long time to complete for what was, essentially, a game whose conclusion was obvious. To remedy this, the Queen's Soft Spots were created, along with the additional rules associated with them - again, not yet tested.

Aside from these now-probably-remedied glitches, the game as a whole worked quite well. Our chosen method of hex-grid annotation wasn't very convenient - if we play again it will probably be using more intuitive square grid coordinates to refer to the hex locations. [00:24] [0 comments]

Tuesday 25 February 2003
In a moment of insanity I've decided to upgrade my graphics card and also get some X3D glasses, not so much because I want them as because the mechanisms involved are all impressively clever. I'll be commenting on the effectiveness once they arrive. [11:44] [3 comments]

Monday 24 February 2003
Who needs an alarm clock, when you can have an evil blimp? [08:12] [0 comments]

Friday 21 February 2003
Another board-game creation, this one as yet untested; Bees! A nod to Abalone and Hnefatafl for being somewhat inspirational. [12:55] [0 comments]

Thursday 20 February 2003
I've remembered both the things I'd been intending to add to my wishlist - the entire series of Monkey! on DVD, and also Blake's 7 on DVD, though only the first season so far... And even that's been pushed back repeatedly, now scheduled for June. Still, at least Monkey! is almost entirely available. [14:33] [2 comments]

Wednesday 19 February 2003
A rather entertaining concept - loveauctioneer.net - it's like a cross between hotornot and ebay. I think "how much are people willing to pay to communicate with you?" is a better indicator of attractiveness than hotornot's "what do they say when it costs them nothing?" Slightly flawed in that it only indicates your attractiveness to the intersection of the "wasting time on such a site" and the "having money to waste" subsets of society, but still, amusing idea. Next on Fox - who wants to prostitute their email address to a millionaire? [13:55] [3 comments]

Tuesday 18 February 2003
Insanity - nearby counties in America (and possibly ours too) have laws that you must clear snow off the sidewalk outside your house. I didn't know this until there was a news announcement, last night, that Montgomery Country was waiving those laws because there was too much snow for it to be practical. A $50 fine if you don't comply. So we pay taxes to maintain streets and such, then we have to do it ourselves anyway. And we pay the compulsory homeowners' association fees so that they can be the ones who fine us for not clearing snow or cutting our grass to the county-mandated length. Of course, it's necessary, because Americans are too fuckheaded to do anything out of non-compulsory politeness or pleasantness. As demonstrated by the people in the subway station the other night, using two of the four phones for a full three hours, to talk about meaningless stuff, while others queued to make emergency contact. Grarh. [15:21] [5 comments]

Monday 17 February 2003
So, an hour until the foolishly-much-discussed finale of Joe Millionaire. Many people are discussing, after last week's show-entirely-made-of-clips-of-the-previous-shows, what the alleged 'twist' is going to be.

Well, I'm here with the definitive answer, and the reasoning behind it.

First of all, since last week's show was all made of clips, they obviously can't make this week's show out of clips - besides, it's two hours long, and it would be crazy to extend it to double-time just to fill the time with clips, wouldn't it?

So, given that it's the finale, it's two hours long, and we've deduced that it will be all original content, the twist will have to be spectacularly complicated. Given such a relatively simple situation, constructing a twist complex enough to fill an entire movie-length show could be tricky. But this is Fox we're talking about, so...
  • Joe chooses the blatant money-grubbing woman.
  • He tells her that he's not rich.
  • She decides she loves him anyway.
  • He thinks that's pathetic, and goes to be with the other woman instead.
  • She (Zora) admits that really she's a man.
  • He admits that really he's gay.
  • He (Zora) is overjoyed.
  • He (Joe) sadly admits that, though gay, he's also female.
  • Money-grubbing woman, appalled by this, says she doesn't love her (Joe) any more.
  • Joe-anne finds this attractive, but isn't wanted, so she lives a lonely pining life forever more.
  • The presenter admits that he's the rich one really, and also a gay black alien woman.
  • Nobody cares.
[18:08] [1 comment]
Yesterday, starting at 1am, I escorted Holly to JFK airport, in New York, for her departure back to Oz.

The lady didn't want to drive us there, because of alleged threats of snow and terrorists; people in government positions were dramatically telling her that going to New York airports this weekend was a really bad idea. Since, the last time there was a terrorist attack, government people didn't think that the target location was a bad place to be, I figured that relying on reverse-correlation would be safe enough (that, indeed, New York airports would probably be the safest place in America, given the tremendous terror-alert track record). Aside from those reasons, we were also going to be in the "all the planes are foreign" terminal, which would surely be the furthest terminal from any attack.

So, with the lady not wanting to drive it, and Amtrak sucking donkeys, the lady did the next best thing; drove us to the bus-station of New Century Travel. While the location was a bit unnerving, the company was lovely; $20 for a one-way and $35 for a return ticket, and a kung-fu movie in the waiting room. The trip was faster, I think, than it would have been by train; we were in New York by 6am. It was cold.

Stumbling off the bus into harsh freezy daylight, we looked around for anything resembling taxis. Seeing none, we set off in an arbitrary direction, found a gas station, whereat the attendant directed us to a taxi. We were at the airport before 7. Her flight wasn't until 12:30, so we had plenty of time to be exploded by terrorists had the warnings any substance.

Hours of time-passing ensued, including my purchasing a miniature "Kerplunk" keychain, and lots of peering at restaurant places waiting for them to open, followed by sneering at the food they offered and not buying any, once they did, and being amused by a sign something like "maximum occupancy 819; more than this is illegal and dangerous" next to a toilet.

Eventually, the doom-time fell, and Holly departed through security. I went to phone home and ask when the return-buses were scheduled, having neglected to check in advance; 5pm was the earliest. I wasted another 4 hours by reading the most formulaic fantasy novel I've ever read, and eventually capitulating and purchasing a $6 sandwich, which I was glad I did, later.

Another taxi took me to the place of the return-bus; the bus was already there, presumably because at this end they lacked even the 'probably used to be a chinese takeaway' waiting room, and so I boarded. An hour later, we were away. Three hours after that, we were driving under flashing signs declaring "STATE OF EMERGENCY. DO NOT DRIVE. AUTHORISED AND EMERGENCY VEHICLES ONLY." Mr Bus-driver, thankfully, chose to ignore all such things, and got me back to DC before midnight.

Gleaning directions to the nearest metro station from a fellow traveller, I walked a couple of blocks through snow of varying depth to it. The lady was called from there. She said she'd try to pick me up at the nearest-to-our-house metro, as previously planned, but that it might not be possible because of the car being snowed in. The metro train was then delayed for over two hours. I called the lady again, after some of that time, and she told me that I couldn't be picked up anyway. Brief dilemma as to whether to go to the nearest-the-house metro and get a hotel there, or wander back out into scary Chinatown and stay at the even scarier hotel opposite the bus 'station'. The metro train arrived before I'd come to a conclusion, so I went with it.

Arriving at the destination metro station, I asked a fellow passenger if he knew where there were hotel-things nearby. He was going in the same direction, so we walked and chattered, mostly about fun-with-politics - he'd gone to New York the day before, for the anti-war protest. A bit of a double-meaning of chattered, there, since our teeth were chattering at least as much as we were; it was a two-mile walk through snow, with lovely spiky ice-rain stabbing us all the way.

We parted ways about half a mile before the hotel-area, and I walked on. For bonus points with the coldness, I had neglected to bring my gloves, or a scarf, or a hat, and I was carrying a carrier-bag; it was at about this point that I realised I could reduce the rapid freezing of my hands by bringing them and the carrier-bag inside my coat, with only a slight additional risk of "I've fallen and I can't get up".

The first place I came to (a motel) looked really skanky, but I was sufficiently cold and miserable to try it anyway; it was closed. The next one along, a Best Western, was open, and staffed by a lovely lovely man who gave me a warm dry flannel with which to snap the ice off my face while he was booking me in. I turned on heaters, blow-melted the ice on my hair, then blow-dried it, then had a hot shower and blow-dried my hair again.

The chances of my getting home today looked fairly grim, too, when I called the lady this morning, but she turned out to be Wonder Woman; dug out her car, drove the doom-laden roads, and rescued me before checkout time.

Brrr. [14:36] [3 comments]

Saturday 15 February 2003
It's my birthday. I'm old, OLD! Where's my cane? You young'uns of today don't know how good you have it. We used to have terrorists drive burning cars into our houses every morning, and we liked it, or they'd not allow us our exploding nails for dinner. [05:29] [7 comments]

Friday 14 February 2003
Holly pa skri civo, bekau da do soma kausa ze bol.

Ceqli xain bonsa piru; do gan Esperanto kai Loglan.

Froi! 'Pa' kai 'fu' seimei fwa! Kor kai kanor parei! Kai, froi plufwa, do tem a word seimei semgaihar Civo bi semgaihar

Civo basa bol. [00:03] [3 comments]

Thursday 13 February 2003
A review of the game I invented the other week, Logisticks. We played it a bit more, and discovered a couple of things that made it a bit silly; a couple of changes to the rules, and it's all happy again.

The game is entirely deterministic, which is a good and a bad thing - on the one hand, it's nice to avoid randomness, but on the other hand, the game is rendered theoretically solvable. As with Chess, the last few moves of the game can often be written off (you'll do that, I'll do that, you'll do that, unless you did this in which case I do this and you have to do that, with the same result...), which is marginally irritating.

Also, as with Chess, it's possible to be sufficiently ahead in the mid-game that the opponent might as well resign (accidentally captured queen, in Chess, or four-points-ahead in Logisticks) - even marginally worse than Chess, in this regard, since you can be in a mid-game position where, no matter how stupidly your opponent plays, you can't possibly win.

All that said, the determinism in Logisticks is less simplistic than that of Draughts or Four-in-a-Row. The per-turn options are similar to those of Chess, with 72 possible opening moves, expanding swiftly as the game goes on - though with most of the available moves at any given time being easily disregarded.

After five or six games with Holly, we haven't found it to be flawed (except in those regards that we've fixed by altering the rules). It's perhaps a bit too cerebral for the tastes of most. It's a pleasantly short game, with length fixed at "less than 30 turns each" in a two-player game; usually more like 20. We'll probably play it more. [04:45] [2 comments]

Wednesday 12 February 2003
A quiz from Kevan, using my model of questions and effects, though not my code.

If I were a NetHack monster, I would be a floating eye. I see and sense absolutely everything that happens around me. I just don't do very much about it.
Which NetHack Monster Are You?
[15:00] [0 comments]

Monday 10 February 2003
I don't believe this person is real, but the email is nearly as amusing if it's from someone being stupid as if it were from someone who just is stupid. I got this email:
Subject: your webstie

why do you have a website? all it does is make me angry. I got linked here from taking that What video game character are you thing, which is the only thing about you that prevents me from coming over your house and sticking a stake in your face cause your probably a fucking vampire. your website is creepy as hell, and to be honest, no one but me has probably ever seen this piece of shit, and I'm glad, because anyone else who sees it would probably be as dumbfounded, scared, and angry as I am. No one wants to hear about some artsy gothic college burnout whose life is a big waste of time, and who met his girlfriend online at some fucking message board where a bunch of fucking losers that don't realize that stupid people are living a much better life than people who write complaints on a fucking message board every day about people who basically live happier lives than them. Maybe if your life was more interesting than my left eyelid I'd consider not hating you and the bed you sleep in. I mean, you don't even have anything remotely interesting on your site god damnit. you'd think that since your life was proven to equal a worthless pile of shit that you'd have something creative to show the world, but no, you pay for a domain name (that has fucking banners by the way, that you could have avoided by using a half-decent domain name registration service you stupid bastard) using money you probably earned sucking guys' dicks in a gas station bathroom stall, or working at Mickey D's, and use it to but a bunch of stupid artsy, sappy psychobabble shit on your website that even the people who like that kind of crap are probably pissed off for getting like 1 sentence of it. And then you put nausea-inducing pictures up of you and your friends that make uglypeople.com make look a fucking gallery of pictures taken at a beauty pagent. God, why did you make such a depressing shitty ass website you sick fuck. People like you make me want to kill myself. Thanks for ruining my night you fucking loser.
[21:24] [19 comments]

Sunday 9 February 2003
And on the subject of haxors - wireless network is working at last. It seems the Airport basestation uses a proprietary method to generate a WEP key from a passphrase - a method that they won't tell anyone. I couldn't find any program to convert phrase to key - the only way to do so seems to be to use the admin tool on the Mac. Seems a rather stupid thing for Apple to keep secret - making their hardware usable only for those who have more of their hardware. Of course, that's the way Apple have always done things. And it's also why they have 95% market share, of course. [09:08] [0 comments]

Friday 7 February 2003
A new RavenBlack-originated toy; the Haxor Handle Generator.
The haxor handle of RavenBlack is "Le3t Lunix Zombie".
What's yours? Enter your name:
[03:29] [8 comments]

Tuesday 4 February 2003
Bit of a conversation the other day about polyamory, including the immortal phrase "I wish it was that easy for me". This triggered a logical deconstruction of why polyamory is not easier than monogamy, and probably not better in most cases either. The polyamory referred to, here, is that of having more than one serious relationship - not the more common "one serious relationship plus sanctioned sleeping around", nor "no serious relationships, just a lot of sleeping around".

It's really surprisingly easy to explain to anyone who's ever been in a relationship or two. First, remember all the things about your monogamous relationship that irk(ed) you. Now add some extra jealousy and resentment, and multiply all that by two - that's what you'd have if you were in a polyamorous relationship with just two people. For each person you add, increase the amount of negative stuff you add before the multiplication.

Of course, you also increase the amount of positive stuff. But here's the catch - imagine all the positive stuff of your one relationship. Now subtract however much of that would be lost if the person spent half their time out at sea or something, then multiply by two.

That's the major catch - there's no way having two relationships will be twice as good as having one. There's a pretty good chance it won't even be better - you need the good parts of a relationship to outweigh the bad by probably three or four times before adding another relationship wouldn't be a bad idea overall.

You also must remember to subtract a bit for your loss of alone time, if you value that sort of thing (though if everyone involved in a relationship with you has the same number of partners as you, this can cancel out).

So, the score of a monogamous relationship is "(X-Y)"; the score of a pair of relationships is "(2(X-T-Y-J)" - assuming all relationships are equal. While this works nicely if things are strongly predominantly good ("(10-1-1-1)*2 > (10-1)"), if that's not the case then you come out with not only a worse ratio of goodness to relationships (which will always be the case), but also less goodness overall.

Not only that, but it's even worse! Using a hypothetical commodity (we'll call it "games of chess"), imagine that you want to play chess. Your partner also enjoys chess, and will play it with you exactly as much as you want. Now bring in another partner, who will also play chess - you haven't doubled the amount of chessy goodness, because you don't want to play it any more than you were already doing. You've had no net gain at all, from the increase in availability of that commodity. So it is with everything. And again, it's still worse - you'll be saturated with chess-playing, and one or both of your partners won't be getting the chess they want.

And all that's assuming that everyone involved has several partners - there's also the additional resentment and awkwardness when one part of the glob has only one partner, who has more than one - the dangler will either get unfairly little time with a partner (as the others can all go to a different partner when one is indisposed), or will tend to take what seems an unfair amount of their one partner's time (such that that person's other partner gets resentful - "they spend twice as much time with you as I do").

Hence, from all this negative stuff, it's my firm belief that anyone complaining "I wish my partner was poly" would end up with much more to complain about if their wish were granted. Of course, I'm not saying polyamory is a bad thing - if I thought that, I'd not be there myself. It's just bad for people whose relationships don't generally work - ie. people. [09:17] [4 comments]

Monday 3 February 2003
Random abstract game invention - Logi-Sticks, a board game for two to four players, using a chess board, some black and white stones, and a set of special pieces (though 6 colours of Icehouse pieces will do, as they did for testing). Works quite well. Very much encompasses the and-or-xor fun of programming logic. [03:23] [5 comments]

Sunday 2 February 2003
Ha - Neil Gaiman took the What Poetry Form Am I? quiz, and blogged it. He's a sonnet. (I would be tremendously amused if he were to blog "Ha, the person who made that quiz blogged that I took it...") [20:03] [4 comments]

Saturday 1 February 2003
Tsk, seven astronauts. They knew the risk. Their choice. I'm not at all sad for the astronauts. I'm a little sad for the likely negative effect on continued space-travel attempts. I'd really rather the ability to go and live on another planet or nice self-contained space-station weren't further delayed. [23:13] [14 comments]
Another Anti-drug ad review. But first, a spot of belated propaganda-noticing; an issue of Newsweek that's been floating around our house for a month or so has, on the cover, "North Korea's Dr Evil: Is Kim Jong Il A Bigger Threat Than Saddam?" Previously, I had just thought "what, another scapegoat target for a war?", but today I realised what is probably the true purpose of such a headline - the implied 'fact' of Saddam being any threat at all. The sort of thing you can't pass off as truth if you say it directly, but you can slide it in neatly as an assumption. In truth, it's like asking "does my hand have a bigger nose than my foot?"

Now, the anti-drug. Latest pot-based ad of the genre suggests "one in five drivers tests positive for marijuana - it's more dangerous than we thought". This reeks of suspiciously careful phrasing, to me. One in five drivers, or one in five who were in accidents? If it is one in five who were in accidents, how does that compare against the statistics of people who aren't in accidents? And then, even if it still looks bad, how about comparing the drug-test statistics of similar drivers? The cited statistic is completely meaningless without some more data points to 1. show that there is a correlation in the first place, and then 2. show that it isn't a correlation based on some other factor that affects both of the allegedly causatively related statistics. They might just as well say that being in accidents causes one in five people to test positive for marijuana. [04:03] [4 comments]