Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pangur Ban, an Irish cat

How did I miss Thomas Cahill's How The Irish Saved Civilization when it came out in 1995? It's crammed with remarkable stuff like Pangur Ban, a fourth century Irish poem about a cat:

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye,
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Cahill's book goes a long way to explaining salient features* in the life of my favorite saint, St. Gertrude of Nivelles. Abbess* of a double monastery* in Nivelles, Belgium in 639 A.D., Gertrude was renowned for her hospitality* to the Irish monks who, according to Cahill, were scurrying all over Europe rekindling the lamps of literacy at this time. Her iconography includes a cat* and one or more mice* some of which scurry up her crozier*!

*Features of Irish monasticism familiar to Pangur Ban, no doubt!


Monday, February 26, 2007

SmartGo is cool, etc.

Has a modern interface, too.

On a personal note, I gave up Letterman for Lent. No TV. I'll miss the Star Trek Enterprise episodes on Tuesdays, though.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rice boils, Bush burns, Democrats count their aces

The self-anointed apostles of apocalypse seem a bit wigged out over Democrats' nonstop efforts to drag George W. out back to the woodshed. Whine, whine, whine. Wait till they realize that Congress has already written the laws that George doth break, the overture as it were to all the subsequent Sturm und Drang of impeachment, trial and actual conviction of a sitting President.

The funny thing is, Mr. Roberts, the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, understands what "separate, co-equal powers" actually means, and is hardly likely to dilute his own authority even in the fangéd face of roaring history.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Many Fogs

Ten things I hate about Many Faces of Go:
  1. Version 11.2 costs $85 for the download edition (no VAT if you're in the U.S., though);
  2. The download edition calls home each and every time you start it up, making an internet connection to see if you're running a "legal" copy (unlike honor system competitors like WinHonte 2);
  3. MFOG was written using the exceedingly quaint Visual C++ Microsoft Foundation Classes multi-document architecture from a decade ago, piling up an unbelievable amount of clutter in a short time — in other words, every single 9x9 game you've played in the last 40 minutes is still active when you quit, so you get to close them all one by one, or bail out with "exit without saving," which quits the program entirely;
  4. The go problems tend to be repetitive, in practice;
  5. The fuseki study tools are bald and unexplained;
  6. The joseki study tools are bald and unxplained, but more interesting if you've ever run Kogo's Joseki Dictionary in a good sgf viewer/editor like MultiGo 4;
  7. The commands are distributed in a menu system and across a toolbar set without evident plan or organization — there is, in other words, no way to progress from simple stuff to advanced stuff by means of tabs or other elementary interface tools;
  8. As strong as it is, the Go engine plays dull, when you find your level and can play an even game against the machine — Go++ and WinHonte mix up the opening better, as, bewilderingly enough, so does igowin (the free Many Faces of Go 9x9 come-on player);
  9. The games library is sort of organized, some of it lightly commented, but in the absence of tutorial guidance, a bit recherché — despite its pretensions, this is not your virtual Go sempai.
  10. And I hate that I keep using it, over and over, as though the promise of dawning light were not about to wink out yet again. But, like Sigmund Freud said, "If you don't pay, you don't get better"... so who knows?

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Friday, February 23, 2007

He schutz, he skorz...

Many Faces of Go Go problems... Ugh. Your score is supposed to go up, not down. Zero is not good...

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Many Faces of Go 11.2

I finally broke down and bought this. It's a strong player, but I'm not sure if it's stronger than, say, WinHonte 2 or Go++ 7. Maybe all about comparable. But it comes with a raftload of tutorial software, such as move hints, joseki futzabouts and elementary problems — and, thanks to that, I've finally learned what "capture with a net" means. Beginners make a ton of stupid mistakes with unfortified diagonals and sudden death on the edge, so maybe I'll get past some of the idiocy and on to the Go.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hikaru no Go games identified!

Evidently, there's quite a hunt afoot to locate all the games that show up (even briefly) in Hikaru no Go episodes, both anime and manga.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Windows XP... nasty, nasty...

I forgot how nasty Windows is. I'm sure the sleaze isn't Mr. Bill's fault, but one must needs select one's companions with a gimlet eye, mustn't one? Pity. Thank you, Norton AV.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Stella's Tombraider Site, arguably the best and most venerable of the oldtime Lara Croft fansites, is reporting that TR1 is going to be "reimagined" and re-released on the Crystal Dynamics graphics engine.

And millions of fans are going, "Oh, please, get this right!" TR1 is the holy grail of graphic video gaming. The "bad graphics" made the game, by forcing brilliance and wit into the storyline, puzzles and surreal scenery. For instance, St. Francis' Folly froze my gizzard the first time I saw it; I got vertigo sitting in an ergonomic chair. Don't blow this one, Eidos!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fixing an invisible CrossFire USB/Firewire drive

Symptom: Compaq Presario V6101US notebook will not recognize a USB drive previously formatted for Macintosh OS X 10.3.9, although USB recognizes that a removable drive is plugged in and provides a System Tray icon to safely dismount it.

Answer: Partition (and format) the Smartdisk CrossFire 120 Gb USB 2.0/Firewire hard drive as follows:

1. Run compmgmt.msc
2. Select Disk Management
3. Right click on disk 1 (YMMV!), and select format (or was that partition? — in any case, use NTFS for Windows XP)

You can recognize the appropriate drive because it has no partition, and it is 115 Gb, roughly (some is reserved for CrossFire firmware use, evidently). The bar above the window is black, not blue. Partitioning takes about 80 or 90 minutes with a USB connection! The software is good about reporting percentage completion.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where's Harkin?

Tom Harkin, my old boss in the early '70's (along with every other Democrat in Iowa, it seems), has fallen oddly silent. The last time I heard anything from him was on CSPAN coverage of the annual Harkin Steak Fry last Summer or Fall, where Barak Obama fired up the faithful. Harkin silent on the war in Iraq? Harkin silent on Bush? Harkin silent for any reason? Makes no sense, unless he's run off with an astronaut...


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Wireless, again...

Wireless...! Whatever, it turns out that all you have to do to "install" wireless is run your ethernet cable to the ActionTec DSL modem and turn the antenna on — assigning a name to your connection and a wireless encryption password (WEP) in passing — then, power down, unplug your ethernet cable from the notebook, and power up. Connect manually, ONCE, to your wireless so you can enter the WEP password, ONCE, and then you are connected. Magically. Just don't try to "configure" it, or use any of the oddball network controls lying out in plain sight all over Windows XP, or you will screw it all up beyond all recognition.

Once it works, it works. Don't fix it.

Found this while fooling around with wireless. Nice.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

WinHonte 2

I just noticed this a few days ago — WinHonte has been updated a level, and now supports 9x9 and 13x13 Go boards, as well as the standard 19x19. Actually, any square board 9 through 19 on a side. The AI is way too tough for me, of course. Go is like Rubik's Cube, I can only catch glimmers of what's going on, but it's still fascinating. With handicap, I can sometimes win, but only when the humiliation and aggravation manages to fire up a second layer of neurons.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Screw that...

Hard to set up, easy to mess up... Wireless sucks on XP. Where are all these "property sheets" I'm supposed to delete? And how the hell can Linux IGD — on Windows??! why am I not running Ubuntu??? — hog exactly one IP address for use by exactly one (i.e., the wrong one) internet connection?


Friday, February 02, 2007

Ha! Wireless at last!

Finally figured out how to get off the ethernet and onto wireless, courtesy of this diesel modem we've had for a couple of years now. It seems faster, probably isn't.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Like tears in rain...

There was a lead headline in the Cedar Rapids Gazette this morning, about CR public schools taking Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer off the 8th grade required reading list. They haven't gone so far as to ban the book altogether (funny, it's usually Huckleberry Finn that people get up in arms about), but it may be a sign of times a-passing, regardless. Just when you thought The Great Dumbdown couldn't get dumberer, this happens.

Mark Twain, who stands pretty high in the abolitionists' pantheon, melting away from public schools "like tears in rain." A pity? Or, in this YouTube age, about time?