Saturday, March 31, 2007

The exact moment I decided to become a Catholic...

I don't scribble a lot of personal stuff here (except for opinions, of course ;-) — but this is the day before Holy Week, and that's a big deal for those of us who have been plodding patiently through Lent and several preceding weeks towards Easter Vigil a week from today, and our initiation into full communion with the Catholic Church. (So easy to use the jargon, these days!)

I'm in RCIA, the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults. The reasons I'm in RCIA are many, mostly happy, but if you're interested in what spark struck my now-Catholic soul to bring all this about, that goes back a few years.

Face it, most of what we all know about real life we didn't learn in school, but on school yards. This was my particular first knock of dissonance, and it passes for a kid's jape:
Q. What's the difference between Protestant puppies and Catholic puppies?
A. Protestant puppies have their eyes open.
Fr. Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the past gas and heavy atmospheres I grew up inside.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dragon Go Server

DGS seems like a friendly (if unusual) place to play Go. Right now, I'm losing four games simultaneously...

(Hmm... Benutzo's Go Dojo thinks I'm 19 kyu. I think they're nuts ;-)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Basque Go

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Got C.O.W.?

By the way, this is what the singing sword sounds like! (But don't take my word for it...!)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Adventures in CP/M on Windows XP

I've always enjoyed Mike Goetz' 1983 version of Adventure, the granddaddy game by Crowther & Woods that started it all. Goetz' version, though, requires a CP/M 2.2 emulator to run on today's computers. Unless you had a Z80-based Kaypro or an Osborne in your life back in the Eighties, you've probably never heard of Goetz' rendition — it's a classic.

On Windows XP, the best of the Z80 emulators seems to be Andreas Gerlich's YAZE. Daunting at first sight, it's actually pretty easy to set up.

  1. Download, Mike Goetz' 580-point version from 1983.
  2. Download the YAZE Windows binary here.
  3. Install YAZE and start it by running yaze.bat. (There's no other way.)
  4. Mysterious, ain't it? Screen after screen of helpful information... (*yawn*)
  5. Unzip your copy of Goetz' game into a folder named adventure (for purposes of illustration). Put it in the YAZE folder. You can put the YAZE folder anywhere.
  6. Enter these commands at the A> prompt (becomes $> within sys):
    umount c
    mount c ./adventure
    create ADV.DSK
    mount e ADV.DSK
    This gets you out of sys mode and back to CP/M (or ZPM, more likely — same difference).

  7. The CP/M drive C now contains the Adventure game files:


    Drive C is read-only because of the way it was mounted. You can't save games in progress there.

  8. Drive E contains nothing. Do this:
    pip e:*.* = c:*.*
    and all six game files are copied to a writable CP/M disk (which is ADV.DSK as far as Windows is concerned).

  9. Switch to drive E and start Adventure!


    Copyright (c) 1983 Michael Goetz

    Welcome to the *new* Adventure! Say "NEWS" to get up-to-date game details.

    Would you like instructions?

  10. You may now discard the adventure folder from step 5. It was just a way to copy the game into a mountable, writable YAZE disk file. In this directory, you can save your games in progress! Keep the ADV.DSK file forever — it (now, anyway) contains Goetz' Adventure game — and mount it as needed.

Enjoy this still, small blast from the past.

By the way, if you'd like to edit Andreas' .yazerc initialization file, be sure to use Linux-style line endings, i.e., LF (0x0a) only, not CR (0x0d) or CRLF (0x0d 0x0a). Macintosh or MS-DOS line endings won't cut it — lots of file not found errors when you try to start up. If you need a text editor that can do the job under Windows XP, try Scintilla's SciTE and look under Options → Line End Characters.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

The spoofs get spiffier...

"Linux is the best $6,000 I ever spent." — Linus Torvalds (wtf?!)


And now this...

Oh, the shame, the shame...!

Here's half of the Keichou no Kaki standalone episode to make amends for that...!

Ok, ok...! Here's the other half.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hikaru no Go culture capers

HNG has some fascinating asides along the way:
  1. Haze Jr. High School Go Club members washing Go stones at the chem lab sink,
  2. An excellent discussion of "shin kaya" (aka "new kaya," but as noted below, "new" in the sense of fake or substitute) and how it's really spruce, and why the name is sharp practice, if not outright intended to deceive,
  3. There was also a nifty discussion of gobans in general, and the sound a stone makes when striking real kaya in that same episode, around 50 or 51 or so;
  4. Also a great Shuusaku tour of Innoshima, and lots of odd period (Kouka to Bunkyuu, roughly) information like the imperial "flower pot" episode.

Much more going on in there, I'm sure. The series is heavy on Go jargon, short on elaboration and example, but not too overwhelming. Everybody loves the secret languages of exclusion and initiation.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

WinHonte 2, level 6

I don't know how strong Winhonte 2 is supposed to be. I just know that if I max it out at level 6 and take a 9 stone handicap, it smashes me with a 150 stone difference. No surprise there, my Go game sucks. (I can sometimes win a 9 handicap game at level 4.) What got my attention was, it demolished an entire corner I thought was safe, anticipated and took positions I needed to take, and played out a very long sequence I couldn't see the end of until it was too late. I'm used to opponents carving little chunks out of my corners before I can seal them off. WinHonte eviscerated a quarter of my board like a French fishwife.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Another find service of

OroBaduk... if you can get it to work. The English version is mysteriously terse. (The Korean version explains the entire program, screen by untranslated screen — in Hangul.) Requires Internet Explorer to get registered, click "joining" to take a crack at it. Lost my first game in years (ok, my only game in years!) to some 25 kyu kid named nekopunch in the first half-hour! Obviously, 25 kyu in Japan carries rather more freight than "25 kyu" in the States.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Natural Bamboo Go Board

My new bamboo Go board from Yellow Mountain Imports arrived today. It's a standard Chinese style table board, so there's no precious Japanese perspective ink to jack up the price. The wood is heavy, cool to the touch, and just slightly aromatic in an eye-stinging, lingeringly just-out-of-the-shop new board sort of way. It's made with laminated bamboo lathe, so visually it's blonde, beautiful and obviously bamboo, with darker joint accents embedded in the surface, just like the photo and curiously appropriate for a Go board. ("You can't cut a bamboo joint" — Go proverb. Get it?) Top is 19 x 19, the reverse is 13 x 13.

I have another board of similar dimensions which I bought from Yutopian a couple of years ago. That one is marred by composition construction (the corners chip eventually) and a barbarically insensitive yellow paint job. A more expensive "shin kaya" (shin means "new", i.e., ersatz or substitute kaya, usually some variety of spruce) board which I bought from Samarkand about the same time was also painted (!) and reeked of a turpentine odor that reminded me of a fumigant you sometimes get from paper goods out of Vietnam. I sent that one back. I give Janice Kim credit — Samarkand took it back without a whimper, and the line is discontinued. She has since found a much better low-end board, just from what I can tell by looking at photos.

Yellow Mountain Imports' board was a pleasure to unwrap. They didn't send the The Way to Go brochure, but that is readily available on the internet. YMI also sells a 2 inch thick version of this same board. Shipping costs are not inconsiderable, these bamboo boards are heavy.

This 3/4" board cost me $39.00, roughly, because the cost of shipping was paid for by a "ten bucks back" special Google Checkout was running. Sometimes you get what you don't pay for.

Save the giant kayas! Play with bamboo!

(Incidentally, I play as cedar44 on IGS, KGS, OroBaduk, etc. I am a beginner, no more than 26 kyu. But learning... ;-)

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Star Trek, March 1968...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The 23rd Day of Lent, 2007

I've been re-reading Thomas Merton's Zen and the Birds of Appetite, the core experience from which I coined the word logorrhea several decades ago — you need not believe me, but it's true.

Merton is the grand old puppet master whose repertory of the Fathers of the Church includes an amusing caricature of D. T. Suzuki, by far the most approachable image we have of the old boy. I confess, though, I can't read Merton for very long before an inexplicable black rage rises up behind my eyes and I feel required, no, impelled to hurl his book against the nearest wall. Like Ayn Rand, whose every book I've burned, a few minutes with Merton asymptotically approaches Eternity.

Kurt Gödel explained this to my satisfaction in Douglas Hofstadter's book, Gödel, Escher, Bach some years ago: Systems of thought lie atop each other like immiscible fluids, precisely because they are inconsistent with themselves. Merton's Christianity is fundamentally not like D. T. Suzuki's Buddhism. D. T. Suzuki's Buddhism is not like anything but itself. Dominicans and Jesuits take Truth where they find it. Leave it to a Trappist monk, bound by implacable vows to Silence, to transmute the consolations of philosophy into clanging alchemy.

For his part, Suzuki is a fabulous old exile from a small pond, a peregrine frog at large. I'm not sure of his dates, although he survived well into Showa. He attempted to present Zen to the West. Strange concept, that, as though Zen had some western aspect congruent with pre-beatnik sensibility, leaving aside Akira Kurosawa's take on samurai westerns! No, Suzuki is incomprehensible. I should know, I've flogged my eyeballs with his translation of the Lankavatara Sutra, and struggled to find meaning in his Studies of the same work. No, Suzuki, transporting Buddhism to the West, requires Western coolies to pull his riksha into the Atomic Age: Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Thomas Merton, among others.

Aside from muddying a few oddly still waters, like a giant goldfish whirling at the bottom of long-settled pools, I'm not sure Suzuki accomplished much. But he cracked open doors no one knew were doors, and so these days we have Dalai Lamas and Thich Nhat Hans gallivanting about, and Ecology and Darwinism and DNA where previously all we heard was D. T. Suzuki's odd neologism, "suchness," which, as any Logical Positivist will happily reveal to you, means absolutely nothing at all.

I confessed all my own ordinary sins last Saturday, part of my rite of passage into Catholicism. Today I confess my amphibian participation in a few extraordinary ones. Om, Sweet Om, my friends. Kawazu tobikomu.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Free chess (as long as we're making lists...)

There's tons of chess software available. My favorite on the Macintosh was Sigma Chess Lite/HIARCS, which was free. The Windows XP freeware I'm playing with (in lieu of anything so good as that) is:
  1. WinBoard 4.2.7a/GNU Chess 5.07 is Tim Mann's traditional xboard interface for GNU Chess and other engines. It can play online, as well.

  2. Arena 1.99beta3 is another excellent first choice. Loaded with features, and supports both WinBoard and UCI style chess engines.

  3. Alpha Chess 3.2.4 is on my list because it has a beatable novice mode and looks good onscreen.
That's all, overlooking Arasan 9.5, Der Bringer and many, many others. Life is short, for someone who can't play chess anyway.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Free Checkers

Why would anyone pay anything (let alone money) just to play checkers? Hospitality, good will, the good grace to overlook advertising in a "free" checkers program? Nope! Not hardly. Never. Not here. Never.

That said, I'd've thunk it would be easy to find a good freeware checkers program on the web, but there doesn't seem to be a big following for the game. Only a few have crossed my ken. Here they be, in order of first impression:
  1. Dragon Draughts is excellent, but it's not standard checkers. This is the 10 x 10 International (or "Polish") game with some surprising backwards jumps, flying kings and a kibitzing blunder guru. It's a bit gnarly on the 1280 x 800 screen (just hit maximize in top right corner), because widescreen notebooks running Windows XP didn't exist, back in the day.

    The rest of the stuff here is the regular 8 x 8 game you grew up with.

  2. CheckerBoard is a nice checkers GUI by Martin Fierz in the great WinBoard/xboard chess tradition. CheckerBoard hosts a number of good free checkers-playing engines, and Fierz' site is the portal to see for that.

  3. Jon Kreuzer and Josh Hess' Gui Checkers is another freeware GUI worth mentioning, at least of those I could find. The board looks good, and the allegedly midrange checkers engine is hopelessly better than my game will ever be.

  4. GamerCafe's Cafe Checkers demo is free, and it has three (count 'em, three!) beginners levels. Minimal graphic delight, but a nice mindless game with some punch at the higher levels.

  5. ICheckers is another minimal bit of freeware with an adequate board. It has an annoying beep to signal your turn to move, and it beats me handily.
CAVEAT — The one serious fault almost all of these efforts share is an arms race approach to engine design. Your casual players (like moi) and all beginners will be left in the dust without a good, obvious, reliable way to dumb these robots down to human scale. The greatest board game in the world has a natural handicapping system to make the game fun for players of widely disparate expertise. Why not Checkers?
There is one shareware program that deserves a mention on a freeware list, firstly because at $19 it's almost free, but mainly because the program really is in the superior category: Sage Draughts 9.0 from PC Solutions. There's a demo version.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Red ears...

Cool! Episode 63 part 1/2 of Hikaru no Go at YouTube shows the "ear reddening" move, Honinbo Shusaku's 127th move of a match with Gennan Inseki in Osaka, September, 1846. Hikaru (i.e., Umezawa Yukari, the pro who vets gameplay for the series) comments that Shusaku/Sai's opponent would have lost all will to fight, because the move "attacks all of the surrounding sides."

Click on the little graphic from (it's their logo), for the YouTube view of the same game.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Gnew Gnu Go?

I found a Windows build of "GNU Go 3.7.10" out there lurking in the intertubes, but after ten games against GNU Go 3.6, the score was 5 to 5. We press on...


Thursday, March 01, 2007

An afterward on SmartGo player

The SmartGo player is a bit of a lightweight; it beats CrazyStone, but not much else... You can set up little tournaments between anything you can play against using GTP — SmartGo player, Aya, GNU Go, CrazyStone, whatever you can find. They can play against each other, which is fun to watch.

By the way, GNU Go 3.7.10 does not build correctly under Visual C++ Version 6. There are a couple of missing files: score.c and uncompress_fuseki.dsp, neither of which have been in the project since at least 3.7.4. Probably just out of phase with their CVS, but still... if it doesn't work "out of the box," it's not GNU Go's version 3.7.10, now is it?

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SmartGo vs. Many Fogs

The more I see of both, the more I'm inclined to argue that if your Go budget is modest, buy SmartGo ($69) first and Many Faces of Go ($85) maybe never, unless you need to fill a slot in your virtual Go museum.

SmartGo's feature set is immense, cleanly implemented and rationally laid out for the intelligent user. Example: One explores one's library of 39,000+ Go games by players' names, not by file names. I was baffled when I saw the default layout of games and players panels — for about 3 minutes, until I right-clicked on a player more or less by accident and suddenly realized I could filter the huge game database to just those featuring, say, Umezawa Yukari. Push the triangle and watch your selected game play back at comfortable speed, stopping at comments if you so prefer!

The rest is a little quiet perusal of the widgets on the screen — what appears when you do this, and what that does when I click, slip or select something else. Suddenly, I've got marks on the bare board, and when I put the mouse there, I get a heads-up display showing me how well that particular opening pans out in all those pro games! Ok, I'll admit it took me a few minutes to configure Kogo's Joseki Dictionary to display exactly the way I like to see it (and the Tree button was hiding in plain sight, after all), but that was then. This is now. When you're at the wheel of a Ferrari, you tend to notice the road more and the model tease less.

Many Fogs, of course, held the laurel for years, mainly because it too after a fashion could do all this stuff. Not bad, for the only wheel in town, but having established what the market will bear to teach itself Go... whoa.

Yes, I have a Many Faces of Go 11.2 icon (bought and paid for) on my desktop. Here's what else:
  1. SmartGo 2.6
  2. WinHonte 2.01
  3. Go++ 5 Deluxe (it's up to version 7 now)
  4. MultiGo 4.3.0 (free, these days)
  5. Drago 2.21 (free, free)
  6. baduK alpha 0.1(open source at SourceForge, but bring your own database)
  7. Uligo 0.3 (also free)
  8. PANDA-glGo (free, free, free)
  9. KGS's CGoban 3-NFA (free)
  10. igowin (this cracks me up! it's a great little game)
  11. GNU Go 3.6 (of course), and also Aya, CrazyStone and GoGUI and...