Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dawkins on Creationism

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What did Shannon Bahrke do with all those Moogles?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fun with FORTRAN Dept.

The primary purpose of the DATA statement is to give names to constants; instead of referring to pi as 3.141592653589793 at every appearance, the variable PI can be given that value with a DATA statement and used instead of the longer form of the constant. This also simplifies modifying the program, should the value of pi change.
        — FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers
Curiously enough, 355/113 = 3.14159292....


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bite or Nip?

Ages ago, when "all us kids" counting cousins were about 12, we were playing on a dirt street in a subdivision of Denver and one of the local curs got peeved with my cousin for bending down to pick up a rock. Well, from the dog's point of view, maybe a little fear aggression was justified, since he'd been a target of rockthrowing before. My cousin, however, was a rock hound (really, he turned into a scout leader as an adult), and nothing like rockthrowing was on his mind. Agate was.

We all ran home yelling about a dog bit Trog! (Names changed, obviously. Tom would never bite a Trog.) Grownups have an interesting habit of tamping down the clearest cause celebe, because instead of Declaring Just War, all we got from my Dad and my Uncle was obfuscation designed to sow doubt in young minds: "Bite?" Followed, incredulously, by, "Are you sure he was bit? Was it a bite, or just a nip?" Whoa, leading question alert!

People like dogs better than their own kids! I wondered for decades what the difference between a bite and a nip was. Tom made peace with his few minor scratches and let it go, but I prefer cats, so the question rankled. Boys have no unearned honor, clearly. Grown men fight wars over girls and their honor (girls are born with honor, scads of it), not boys and their dogs, not even bad boys or mad dogs. Those are problems to be ignored — or settled, mano a mano, in O.K. corrals, neatly contained. No sane alpha male is ever going to take bad news, the kind that might require action, from a pup.

As a kind of working hypothesis, I decided that a nip was a bite in lesser degree, but I could never call that anything like knowledge, still less wisdom. A snarling dog showing its teeth nipped my cousin, but I have generally given those kind of glowing canines more respect than they deserve, if Cesar Millan is to be believed. I have come to realize that people are insane about their own dogs, and the wolf-sized curly-tailed mongrel "puppy" I would cheerfully dropkick to the moon, given a chance, is somebody's surrogate child. Lawks, people will go to war to defend a dog, just like girls and Helen of Troy! We big-brained apes are moonstruck, and even howl outside our own species.

Still, I've felt better about dogs since I learned that some people, such as Comanches and Vietnamese, have a different take on what the phrase "puppy chow" really means than, say, Purina.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota Prius? What about the old Ford Fairlane?

Toyota probably deserves some of the blistering heat coming it's way about various electronic defects — especially the sudden acceleration problems Apple's Steve Wozniak highlighted recently.

But Toyota was never the only offender. Back in the late Sixties, Ford had (and vigorously denied having) two problems — sudden acceleration and uncontrollable oversteering. I know, because it happened to me. I had to go offroad to the right after crossing the Squaw Creek bridge going East on 13th Street in Ames, Iowa, then down a steep incline and totalling the Fairlane I was driving sideways on a tree. Aside from putting a ding in my father's auto insurance, and paying a $50 fine for "property damage" (which my father paid), there were no major consequences, but that was a matter of dumb luck.

Feeling your car suddenly jackrabbit forward with a roar is disconcerting, at best. And putting the onus for dealing with such an unfamilar situation as violent oversteering on an unsuspecting driver borders on criminal.

Prognosis in the present instance? Toyota will purr and fawn until the big, angry public thing goes away, then make a minimal effort at improving public relations, but not quality control. Same as Ford. Detroit, you'll remember, wouldn't take quality control seriously until Japanese imports hit them in the gut.

China, which bears the same relation to laissez faire capitalism as Herbert Hoover and Al Capone, isn't likely to be the clean competitor that improves car-buying for American consumers, worse luck. The pendulum may (just maybe may) have swung back to Yankee ingenuity, but I doubt it.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Civilization is maintenance. Making the world magical for five-year-olds.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's an "onomasticon"...??

There's one on the GoGoD cd, and it may just be the coolest toy on there, if it weren't for all the serious "Games of Go throughout History" bits...

Looking up (Yi Ch'ang Ho)...

Enter the first character (if you know it) from the lookup table, then hit the Search button. But direct, native input from the keyboard using a utility like Anthy (Ubuntu's SCIM for 日本語) won't work.

It's like a visit from Humpty Dumpty. "It's name is John Fairbairn's Dictionary Suite 1.4. But what it's called is onomasticon.exe, and that is a list of names." Yes, Virginia, being English is congenital.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The GoGoD disk

Games of Go on Disk has all of the games of Honinbo Shusaku, as near as I can tell. I can only find about 461 of 'em, but there may be as many as 600, scattered here and there. Recommended, and well worth the 40 bucks.

Fooling around on the GoGoD disk, I've discovered you can read Kombilo databases with SQLite Browser, which means that Drago, which uses the guts of Kombilo (as libkombilo), also reads (and creates and merges into) SQLite databases → (here's the point) → which makes the sgf game files both redundant and considerably more intelligible, since the databases reveal the names of the players and other game info which is otherwise hidden behind an opaque filename.

Drago runs on Ubuntu 9.04, under Wine, fairly well. It tends to lock up during long procedures (such as reading many sgf's into a database) without warning, but eventually returns control back to the user. Reading the entire GoGoD collection of sgf's into a Kombilo database may be a bit much — not sure I'd recommend that unless you've got Windows 7 and a muscle PC.

Drago and Kombilo (and more) are included on the GoGoD disk.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Year of the...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Isn't there some other way to watch the Olympics?

Would it kill the powers that be to broadcast these kids LIVE?


Monday, February 15, 2010

Nihon Kiin's 9x9 Go Game Machine

Windows program, works brilliantly well on Unbuntu Linux, running out-of-the-box under Wine, unlike Many Faces of Go version 12 or igowin, which have long-standing cosmetic issues with Wine. Go Game Machine is a fairly strong 9x9 player, too, allegedly for kids, definitely for any beginner at Go.

This Japanese game is on eBay, but they require PayPal, and it's an auction to boot. Interesting Hikaru no Go manga spinoff. The buttons on the opening screen are:

  • campaign mode

  • free play mode

  • survival mode

  • management mode

There are other iterations, including Hikaru no Go for GBA, and a third game for Gameboy. There is also a useful FAQ at GameFAQs.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

VANOC? Protest?? What??!

Not everyone thinks the Vancouver Olympics are A Good Thing, apparently. You could start at, but that one is a bit beyond the pale, so I haven't hyperlinked it for you. The gist seems to be about RCMP types who mace protesters, unwanted development on tribal lands, etc. etc. Not everybody is happy happy in re the Olympics. We kind of forget in this country that them Commonwealth countries aren't in this country, so "freedoms of" are more problematic in their obversation by Authority, especially for us smartalecks.

While I'm on the subject, "This is a time for mourning. This is not a time for finding blame" really cuts the cheese too thin for me, speaking of luge mayhem. Kind of like the goon convicted of murdering his parents who begs the judge to have mercy because he's an orphan. Nothing like kicking up the dust, 'eh?

Incidentally, <sarcasm>kudos to NBC for that great mashup coverage of piaciersmofgiuglusre skating.</sarcasm>

obversation, n. Hey! It's a word. Ignore it.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Santa's Workshop to the World

Leaving aside Toyota, which is assembled by non-union labor in the Confederate States of America and so may be expected to be afflicted (like Republican thought) with brain scale, Japan never ceases to amaze me by the sheer magnitude and quality of the toys it assembles and sends to the world.

My first serious toy was Japanese — a Yashica Penta-J SLR — and nearly everything I've ever bought for fun since then, except candy, was Japanese. My DS Lite and PSP are, as are nearly all the great videogames I've ever played. My car is a Honda, and, unlike Toyota, back in 2000 when I bought it, it was literally "Made in Japan" and now has over 112,000 miles with virtually no time in the shop except for Jiffy-Lube. And, believe me,if Japan sent over a chain of fast lube places, I wouldn't use Jiffy-Lube either. What's the word? Yamato-damashii means "Japan does try harder, after all," and I believe it. For many years, those islands have been my idea of Santa's Workshop.

Except for the Finland branch, which gave the world Linux and a reason to believe in open source. Thank you, Linus Torvalds, who is the aforementioned Mr. Claus! I mention all this because this has been a lucky week for me: finally admitted me to the kingdom, after a year's delay, I found Arno's Fuseki Database, and Kin's Homepage,,, Fuego (one of the hypermodern computer Go players), and two unexpected versions of Hikaru no Go [1, 2] for the GBA, which actually teach Japanese kids and students of the language how to play The Game.

Yeah, Finland. That, Japan... and... uh... Korea...

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Go essentials

Arno's Fuseki Database complements Kogo's Joseki Dictionary nicely as study tools for beginning to intermediate Go students, and GoGui makes a nice graphical user interface for either. You may find plenty of recent kifu from the KGS go server here.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010 is Back!

After an interminable delay, my account at Jan Steen's online database has finally been unfrozen! I paid them 20 € via PayPal sometime last year, and never got my account activation until today — the better part of a year. I don't know (or care) what the problems were, they seem to be resolved now.

Which is a good thing. was one of the great workhorse websites for learning Go, and it was intensely frustrating not to have it available.


Iowa Republican Legislators vs. Gay Marriage

Apparently, Iowa's same-sex marriage status (we allow it) has the same effect on Republican State Legislators as the old high school injunction, "Don't wear green on Thursday!" It's just another example of cootiephobia, a bit unexpected in grownups.

At any rate, the State Legislature, which is controlled by adults (mostly Democrats, at the moment) has shut off debate on the issue, and now all those Repubelicans (wink wink nudge nudge) are threatening to take their juvenile cause to the voters in November, apparently in the belief that a deep and silent groundswell of like-minded Iowans with brain itch will surge forward to demand a Constitutional Convention to ban same-sex marriage.

Maybe in your school that Unwritten Law of Heterosexual Behavior was about not wearing blue jeans on Wednesday, but every high school has one. Apparently, the concept that closet gays need some kind of radar or secret sign to find each other takes up about as much time and imagination as Godzilla box office statistics. These are the same people who always found the well-coiffed castrati in Certs commercials reassuringly non-threatening.

Apparently, sex in high school is still no laughing matter. Which makes perfectly good sense, considering how hard it is to find a normal, well-adjusted partner with brains and a car.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Wake up and smell too much coffee

(0,0) is bottom left, x = 8y. The rather obvious answer is y=5 millimeters.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Friends in low places...

(Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina, La Strada)

More about my mini-stroke — Apparently, despite some immediate progress yesterday, getting back to normal will take longer than I'd hoped. Still feeling kind of beat up and unusual today, but it's not in the grand scheme of things very serious.

(Yes, I like Gelsomina, too ;-)


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Linux Fortune Cookie

You can not get anything worthwhile done without raising a sweat.
       — The First Law Of Thermodynamics

What ever you want is going to cost a little more than it is worth.
       — The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

You can not win the game, and you are not allowed to stop playing.
       — The Third Law Of Thermodynamics


Saturday, February 06, 2010


Had a little mini-stroke yesterday morning, so my typing is a bit off... Evil spirits?

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Silly Walks on the Mild Side, or, More Preppy Twits of 1951

Synopsule. Rich kid gets beat up by a pimp in New York City. J. D. Salinger hides his face for sixty years, then dies.

Holden Caulfield was a goddam riff on Woodrow Wilson.

The intellectuals in my high school were reading The Stranger and Nausea or maybe (if they were lame enough) On the Road and Old Man and the Sea — stuff with some relevance to the Atomic Age and our private beatnik apocalypso. Caulfield Lite is Chevie Chase, at best. Salinger is dead. He always was. End obituary.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Eidogo plays nice with KJD

Eidogo is cool. It's Javascript, so you can run it on your own server.

Send to Eidogo is a Firefox extension that lets you click on the download link for any sgf Go file and load into the online viewer at E.g., Send This Link to Eidogo as shown on the Firefox Add-ons page. (It's the 1st title match between Umezawa Yukari and Xie Yimin at the 13th Female Kisei, 21 January 2010.)

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010


I've been noodling on a little Inform 6 adventure game called venture.z5 since 2007, but it's not done yet. To wit:

About the Venture

The orbship Gaspin Bobtree, a huge private yacht serving no great purpose, was brevetted and re-commissioned as the hospital ship Venture by Captain Zygga Fan during the Great Bugout from Earth in 2388 C.E. The Venture carried refugees from the Downundaland of Oz away from the apocalyptic carnage that engulfed the Sirius Sector that year, the year Betelgeuse turned blue and went nova.

Unfortunately, as it attempted to escape, the unarmored Venture was crippled by attenuated flares from a subspace cataclysm milliparsecs distant.

Some 300 years later, the sphere of the Venture, cracked like a coconut, was discovered adrift in the Kuiper Belt surrounding Barnard’s Star, turning metaphorically end for end in the feeble light of its distant ruby sun, plague lights flashing violet, gaping rents in its hull patched over with force fields.

The Venture was hardly lifeless.

The lapse of 300 years had, however, not redacted a galactic propensity for extreme diplomacy (i.e., "war") to erode the best (especially the best) intentions. All record of the Venture dropped from the scope of pressing concerns until you, beset on all sides by desperation, evanescent hopes and bone crushing debts, caught wind of it.

By kidnapping your uncle’s wife’s youngest sister and selling her into slavery to Bruth the Buttbreaker (ok, ok, we’ll agree not to speculate how you REALLY did it...!), you’ve managed to acquire an implausibly spaceworthy caravel, the freighter scout Nel Zelpher.

Now here you are!

Here you are, not a million miles away from the very place beneath your feet where others have found fortune and fame ... or slow death, medium-quick death, or sudden death. Madness! And horror, lots of horror! Yes, the Venture is no pleasure world! [n.b. If you missed the reference to Star Bridge right there, you're not my intended audience.]

You’ve located the coordinates BRU-6713-112 stencilled neatly on the orange hull. Somewhere nearby lies an entrance.....


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Were you Cleopatra in a former life?

Good choice! Everybody wants to read that book. Well? Doesn't that make sense? We live in the 5th dimension, after all.

Your life from birth to death is like a calligrapher's stroke of the pen, utterly open and revealed. The only question is, are you the artist? Or were you drawn? Is your life an open book? Are you an autobiography? Aren't you in the library?

Wouldn't you love to check out Cleopatra?


Monday, February 01, 2010

One moment please...