Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Paternal Pride

Pushing my buttons

I'm very proud of my little girl for being such a wonderful child, but
every now and then she does something that just really really causes
me to feel extra proud. I realized those things actually tend to fall
in the categories I write about here the most: Technology, Restaurants
and Games. Keep in mind, she's a one-year-old. These things that I
am so proud of may not sound so impressive, but for someone who can't
walk, talk or understand most of what you say, they're pretty cool.

First, the technology category. A couple of months ago, I was using
our TiVo to play music (using the "home media option"). My daughter
isn't allowed to watch TV yet, so any use of the television, even just
to play music, is very exciting. She eagerly wanted to play with the
remote, and the TiVo remote is a pretty robust device, so I
acquiesced. I gave it to her and she proceeded to press buttons, and
with very little help, figured out that the big yellow button pauses
and unpauses the music. She sat pausing and unpausing the music for
quite some time, rather satisfied with herself. There's something
very pleasing as a father to see a child barely 11 months old figure
out a piece of "grown-up" technology so quickly and adeptly.

Second, the restaurant category. She eats out very well. She is
usually quite well behaved and enjoys the different environments. One
restaurant we've taken her to several times is a favorite of ours,
MaryChung's. At our most recent visit, she rather insistently
wanted to have some of what we were having. While Dun Dun Noodles
seemed perhaps a bit too spicy for a one-year-old, we decided to have
her try some pan fried Peking Ravioli and Mongolian Beef. She loved
them. She ate a couple of ravs all by herself. When I was in college,
we went out to Mary's a lot, often in large groups. We always
ordered ravs. When preparing our order each person would
hold up a finger if they wanted an order of ravs (6) for themself or
hold up their finger, crooked, if they wanted a half-order (3) for
themself. It made counting the total number of rav orders to place
easy. It fills me with great pride that my daughter, still unable to
say much, is just about ready to participate in such a protocol. I
just have to teach her to hold her finger crooked when I say "Ravs?"

Finally, the games category. I don't want to inflict my hobbies on my
children, but at the same time, I'd be extremely pleased to be able to
share them with them. Further, I don't expect her to be able to play
games for quite some time. She is, after all, only one. But, being
who I am, I can't help but get games for her, in anticipation that
someday she will hopefully want to play them. Well, that day came a
lot sooner than I expected. We have for her several games, including
"Chutes and Ladders" and "Enchanted Forest". The other day, she was
playing and started reaching urgently toward the games shelf. I took
out Chutes and Ladders and I set it up. My little girl proceeded to
grab one of the pawns and tap it repeatedly on the board, in a line,
in much the way someone would who was counting out their moves with a
pawn on the board. She must have seen us do this, or it must be in
the genes, but I hadn't modeled the behavior for her immediately
before. On later occasions we "played" Enchanted Forest, dealing the
cards back and forth to one another. On another occasion, I got out
Chutes and Ladders, and just set the box next to her. She proceeded
to open the box, take out the board and pieces and spinner and play
with them. Wow. I must say, while moving Chutes and Ladders pawns
around randomly or dealing cards back and forth may not be "Euphrat &
Tigris", it really drives home the point: Games are often much more
about who you play them with.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Books read and some gripes

At the recommendation of a colleague, I recently read a couple of
novels by China Mieville. Specifically, Perdido Street Station
and The Scar, and then, just like every else in the world, I
read the new Harry Potter.

The China Mieville novels are highly recommended. He imagines a rich
and compelling world and unlike some other fiction that focuses
heavily on the mileu, he manages to execute good stories in this
elaborate world. I liked them both, but found Perdido Street
more satisfying.

J.K. Rowling remains a good writer who writes engaging characters and
enjoyable stories, but this latest book was a bit of a disappointment.
It wasn't bad, but I think it's probably my least favorite of the Harry Potter series so far.
I'll comment below in more detail.

(The following paragraphs contain some spoilers for The DaVinci
, Footfall, Lucifer's Hammer, The Half-Blood
, and the film and book Return of the King.)

While talking to the above-mentioned colleague, I realized a quality
of many books and movies that I find increasingly unpleasant; I don't
like it when a narrative, especially one which supposedly tells a
story of momentous events, ends with the world the same as it started.
Recent offenders include notably The DaVinci Code and the
Return of the King. The DaVinci Code I didn't like for
a variety of reasons, and the fact that the state of the world is
essentially reset by the end of the book just enhances my irritation
at it. In the LOTR movie though, it was one of the only
disappointments. At many levels, I actually feel the movies exceeded
the books. But, the elimination of the scouring of the Shire, however
"hollywood", felt like the only major disappointment to me. In the
books, the world was saved, but the world was changed, pervasively.
In the movie, not as much. Oh well. In contrast, other novels I
enjoyed a great deal such as two of my favorites by Niven,
Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer end in a very different
places than they started.

In a book or movie, particularly science fiction and epic fantasy, the
world can change, and you don't have to worry about the "next
episode". In a TV show, the "reset" effect is often a necassary
premise given the episodic nature of the medium. Some TV shows in
recent years have done an especially good job of moving the story
forward while at the same time, providing enough of a weekly "reset"
that you can get away with missing episodes, but are additionally
rewarded for following the story in detail. In books or movies this reset
is unnecassary and disappointing.

The Half-Blood Prince doesn't fall victim to this, fortunately,
but the book is a bit heavy on the exposition. It felt like very
little happened and when it finally did, it was a little uncomfortably
rushed. Further, what plot there was felt even more contrived than it
often is. Plus, as many others have mentioned, the book read like
part one of two, while most of the previous books have stood alone far

Disk failure

Ugh, what a pain. I had a disk fail, again. This time, there was data loss. I think I've managed to restore most everything from backups and web caches for the stuff that wasn't backed up recently, but I probably missed some stuff. If you notice anything, please let me know.

I am aware that the sparkline graphs on the
SdJ-Virtual-Market-Results don't work, and I'll try to fix them,
but I may not get to it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Board Game Geek Correlations and "mathematical" trade lists

In similar motivation to my other
recent boardgamegeek features
, I finally got around to adding
statistically correlated game recommendations. For example, if you
look at the page for href=>Ra, you can see in the
"Related Statistics" block it recommends Traumfabrik. Further, if you
click on the little "i" there, you href=>can
see that it has a number of weaker suggestions including "Louis
XIV", "Samurai" and "Geschenkt". I posted some details href=>in
a thread on the geek.

Additionally, I've become intrigued by the complex but powerful
"matematical" or "no-risk" trade lists that have appeared on the geek.
They are much more complex to moderate than the "ultimate" trade
lists, but not really any harder to participate. However, they seem
to have a much higher success rate; the lists result in successful
trades at a much higher rate. In an effort to simplify the
administration of such a list I created a href=>Mathematical/No-risk Trade
Resolution Tool. The href=>first
list to use this is active on the geek currently, though it closes
for new submissions tonight. It's very amusing and pleasing to me to
see this kind of quite complex, but effective construct actually used..