(no subject)

I seem to be coming up with a lot of ideas tonight.

1) Possibly a new form of governance.

Elections are held for existing positions in a government (or corporate structure). Everyone gets one vote, but anyone can register as a candidate just by saying so. This should result in zillions of candidates getting some votes. Then there is a second round of voting in which everyone is able to cast as many votes as they received in the last round. This continues until some candidate is elected with a majority of the votes.

In a sense, one can imagine votes as cards that are merely being passed around and accumulated into larger and larger piles by fewer and fewer candidates until a majority winner emerges. In fact, there don't even have to be defined rounds. If one vote passes through twenty different people in the same time it takes another vote to pass between two people, it doesn't matter.

Presumably the initial voters will be the least informed on the subjects in question (say the duties of a parks commissioner) but each successive round of voting should see the votes accumulate in the hands of people who are more and more informed on the issues surrounding the parks commissioner position.

But for this reason, the first round of voting will dump a lot of votes into the hands of celebrities. That is not ideal, but one must admit that celebrities already do wield a tremendous amount of political power without any good reason for doing so. The opinions of the proles on the Tibetan political situation are greatly influenced by the opinions of various actors and musicians.

Furthermore, the proles will likely tend to vote for celebrities whose political views are somewhat in line with their own. A far right wing prole is unlikely to vote for an actress who regularly speaks out in favor of gay marriage and socialistic causes. They will more likely vote for some country musician with more conservative views.

And since there are so many celebrities, it is unlikely that any one celebrity will be a viable candidate because the successive rounds of voting will be much less prone to passing additional votes to those same celebrities. I would expect to see celebrities pass their votes along to much less famous people whom they admire.

2) It might be possible to test such a system by holding a game. A random trivia card is drawn from a deck and everyone must vote on which player they think is most likely to answer the question correctly. Person A casts his vote for person B by giving person B a card with the name "person A" on it. Votes are passed along until someone has a majority, then that person submits an answer. If the answer is correct, a single point is awarded to each person whose name appears on the cards possessed by the elected individual. Then all cards are returned to their original owners and the next question is asked. The winner is the first player to reach some predefined number of points.

3) It might be possible to use the mathematical language of game theory to digitally describe various governance systems. These could be randomly generated and assigned a small pool of participants, and funded with a small pool of money. These would persist for some period of time, after which their performance would be evaluated based on some automatic criterion - say for example, how much money remains in their budgets. (More being better.) Then the digital values describing the most successful governance methods would be mated together as a genetic learning algorithm. These child governance systems are then run again, and so on. Eventually the most successful systems would be implemented in actual small organizations. The most successful of these would be mated and iterated, with some eventually being promoted up to medium sized organizations, and so on. This would continue in perpetuity.

I'm selling my Nexus One

It's compatible with the T-mobile network who offer cheap unlimited data month to month plans. I love it so much but my work gave me an Evo, which I love less, but I only need one phone.

I am hoping to get $350 for my nexus one bundle. Similar bundles seem to be going for anything from $250 to $470, with little rhyme or reason for pricing. I've only sold one thing on ebay before so I don't have a lot of feedback, and my phone is inscribed with a Richard Feynman quote, "We are at the very beginning of time for the human race", which makes ebay even less predictable. The bundle includes (everything in very good condition):

- phone (I don't see a single scratch on it anywhere)
- google car dock
- car charger
- wall charger
- data cable
- neoprene case
- car mounting sticker (unused)
- original ear buds (with pause/play, forward, back controls)
- original packaging
- original literature

If you're interested, let me know as soon as possible.

on thankfulness

I usually am not thankful for many things because I feel like I usually have very little to be thankful for. But I now finally have a decent job and I'm really thankful for that.

People always say one should be thankful for one's good health. I'm not entirely certain why, but that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth though I suppose it's technically true. It might be that it feels like telling a 40 year old man who has recently become a quadriplegic "Wow, you have a great head of hair! You should be very grateful it's not thinning like mine!" Life is not about thinning hair or good health. Life is about happiness and love. If you have those things, thinning hair and bad health are irrelevant. If you don't, luscious hair and robust health are irrelevant.

I'm very grateful that I live in this decade and not in some previous one (although to be perfectly honest, I probably would be even happier further into the future). It is so nice having smart phones, books on mp3, google maps, gps, wikipedia, downloadable movies and music, email, online commerce, sophisticated video game, and sophisticated creativity software. I am grateful that I live during a time where I can witness rapid historical changes for the better take place during my lifetime - something that was not the case for nearly all of human history.

It's also so nice to have universal sufferage, and not have slavery or overt racism or caste systems in place.

I'm thankful my car doesn't break every time I use it. Not that it's ever been unreliable, but rather just because a broken car is such a pain.

(no subject)

Sunday I went to another coffee shop. This one seemed to have a buzz of coolness, so I was optimistic. It had a friendly barrista, reasonable music, and hip furnishings. I noticed there were a number of hotties present, although they mostly looked like undergrads. I bought a chai and took out my laptop and started drawing. After a little while I got the impression that people kept taking peeks at my drawing. Eventually one old guy asked me some questions about my computer. He said he thought he needed to get one to take his drawing process more easily into digital. He currently draws in ink and then scans. I told him the program I was using and that I really liked my tablet and was going to give him some good advice on buying a drawing tablet but then he suddenly left to go talk to somebody else. Oh well, maybe next time. 

Some undergrad age kid sat at the table next to me with his male friend. He related quietly how his dad was an alcoholic and was making a show of following the 12 steps, but his apologies were always fairly hollow. "I'm sorry I did this thing, but I was drinking and you kids were really being difficult and making me act badly." That kind of thing. It was very interesting to listen to. The kid seemed pretty grounded and reasonable. He had artistic leanings and when he didn't like doing the things his dad liked doing, his dad complained about having such a pussy for a son. I couldn't make out most of his friend's comments, but his tone of voice sounded very unaffected by the story. He seemed to be trying to avoid looking like a dick, but seemed to not care and occasionally even making comments in defense of the father. There was something a little odd about their interactions. I wondered if they might be lovers. I think it might have been a mismatch between how familiar they seemed with each other, yet how unfamiliar their words indicated them to be. When you first start dating someone, you've often seen them naked and moaning, but you don't even know what it was like for them growing up.

I stayed for a couple hours but then I started feeling really antsy and left.

(no subject)

I'm still very concerned about finding a girlfriend. The pickings seem pretty slim at work, so I think that's not an option, and the pickings at the local girlfriend store seem pretty slim, so that's probably not an option either. My image consultant says I should go to bars to meet people. I'm not a big bar person, but I have been to bars a few times and noticed that nearly everyone is there with friends most people aren't too interested in interacting with other people. Some people do want to interact with other people, but not in a particularly useful way. For example, my sister likes to go to bars with her friends, get hit on by guys, then tease the guys and make fun of them.

My image consultant recommended I hang out in bars. She seemed to indicate that she has made some "friends" at bars that she claimed to still keep in touch with, but never met a boyfriend this way. I can verify that another female friend of mine has made numerous friends at bars, but they all seem to be male, and she's complained that they all keep trying to get into her pants.  I suspect the real lesson here is that attractive women don't have much trouble finding male "friends" in a bar. I don't recall anybody else having made friends in bars. (Also, I think the latter friend said she used to hang out in bars nearly every night, which is really, really not how I want to spend my time. I don't actually like bars at all.)

My best idea was to hang out at coffee shops whenever I felt like getting out. I'm not too optimistic though. How many couples discover each other at coffee shops? I don't think I've ever heard of one. It's a setting that is conducive to minding one's own business. I think Thaad has met people this way, but I think she used to go every night and likes chatting with strangers. I mean, I know that's the goal, but I think it helps a lot if you intrinsically enjoy chatting up strangers. I don't really. I like talking about interesting things like new ideas I've never heard before. I don't so much like chatting about favorite colors or how some organizations are corrupt, even if doing so with a brand new face. New ideas, yes. Old ideas, even from a new person, no.

(no subject)

Finally able to log onto work email for first time. This opened up ability to contact IT department myself, helping to resolve other issues. Odd being on other end of IT help line. Keep running out of work. Fortunately boss returns tomorrow to give new assignments. So far not really clicking with anyone at work. Learning a few new names every day.

Tried out laundry facilities once home. Work adequately. Probably overcooked clothes. Need to speed up internet. Can increase speed 8x for 50% more money. Sounds like good idea.

Hoping move will go well tomorrow and Saturday.

Puzzle Quest Review

First let me say that any criticisms I have for the various Minnesota Puzzle Quests are in the spirit of providing feedback, or sharing experiences with fellow questers, or informing other people what the quests are like. In no way do I mean them to be condemnations of the hosts. I have been bewildered by the sheer amount of time that would be required to put them on. It's obvious a huge amount of labor would be required. I am also bewildered by the creativity and cleverness of the puzzles. There have been many puzzles where I literally could not figure out how someone could have created them because the task seemed far more complicated than solving them. Lastly, I think puzzle quests are fairly noble events involving many good things and almost no bad - exercise, socializing, fresh air, creativity, mental exercise, etc.

I attended the Minnesota Puzzle Quest today. It was located in Loring Park, which I'd never really been to before because it's in a super inconvenient spot with really confusing streets, always clogged with traffic, and no parking. But the email indicated that there was usually plenty of parking on the street at 13th and Harmon, but actually there was no parking and I drove around and around for maybe 15 minutes before finding a spot. By then I was kind of stressed out, but still not late.

Fortunately it is the future and my smart phone was able to keep me more or less oriented. I glanced at the street signs as I walked away from my car and I could have sworn they said Hennepin and 12th, but as I later discovered, I was mistaken.

It is interesting, approaching a puzzle quest from blocks away. Very quickly you begin to spot people who look like puzzle questers. They aren't wearing any special costumes or anything, but they just look kind of nerdy in a particular way, and they're all walking in lines that converge on a single point that is pretty close to where you are walking. So you can just average all of your vectors and that always turns out to be an extremely accurate prediction of the location of starting point.

Charlie was articulate and authoritative, which was impressive. He explained the ground rules, which, even his articulate delivery was unable to fully clarify. This was the first indication that the game had been made far more complicated than it needed to be. There were five puzzles, plus a zeroth puzzle I think?, plus a secret puzzle that was optional. Winning was accomplished by completing the last puzzle before anyone else. Or by completing the secret puzzle, which delivered a different prize? Or by some third mechanism that I can't remember anymore. There were three victory conditions with multiple different, secret prizes.

Each puzzle had two answers. One told you the location of the next puzzle, and the other was for something else that wasn't entirely clear, but I think it was for the last puzzle? Also, each puzzle seemed to have pieces of the secret puzzle embedded in it.

You could buy clues, which cost you points or something, but it didn't seem like these points mattered? I've been to three puzzle quests now, and none of them have explained scoring very clearly before hand. I guess that's not really why people are there, but it's hard to guess how costly the hints are without knowing the scoring scheme.

Then a girl gave a speech which established the theme and story. She looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place her. She did a reasonably good job acting, but I dunno. I like there being a story and acting and stuff, but also the acting always embarrasses me and I just want them to cut the bullshit and give me the puzzle. I usually find myself figuring out where their routine is going within a couple seconds, then I just start staring off into the distance waiting for it to end. One guy, later on, was giving us instructions that we were supposed to respond to and I got so bored with his spiel that I sort of forgot to do what he was saying or pay any attention. So I have mixed feelings on the issue and am not sure what the best solution is. Probably at least the spiels should be kept short, and the interactions with the players should be fun rather than embarrassing and awkward.

I really liked the premise, by the way. It was all about conspiracies and needing to decipher pages from the journal of a paranoid lunatic who turns out to not be quite as paranoid or crazy as one might assume. He's discovered a nefarious plot by the Literati (a sort of lampooning of the Illuminati).

Then Charlie handed each of us two copies of a map and the girl handed us each a copy of the first puzzle. What we found out maybe an hour later was that Charlie neglected to give our team a copy of the master map. Due to the nature of puzzle quests, it's not obvious at all when something is missing. In fact, usually 95% of the information you would expect is missing, and you are supposed to use the remaining 5% to reverse engineer the rest.

Anyway, we were unable to figure out the first puzzle without the map and needed to be escorted to the second puzzle by an official. I was amazed by how far the walk was! I thought the whole event would be within the park but the location was many blocks away.

In the three puzzle quests I've attended, the first puzzle has been quite difficult. In my opinion, the first puzzle should be quite simple, perhaps to the point of triviality, just to get new people into the swing of things. Also puzzlers are very hesitant to begin buying clues right off the bat, and so it becomes a very painful start.

Also, this puzzle had tons and tons of reading. The text was written by a madman, so it was really difficult to parse, slowing things down greatly, and it was full of clues, and so had to be read and reread over and over. I don't really like that, personally. 

The next puzzle was quite clever in the way it hid the location data, but we weren't able to figure out the second solution. In fact, we were unable to figure out any of the second solutions for any of the puzzles.

All of the puzzles seemed tremendously difficult to me. Many of them required a lot of time and busy work, for example translating  dozens of words, or building cubes out of cardboard. Busy work like this can be a nice break from the brain busting puzzles, but it also uses up a lot of time. Then they all had almost no direction. I do like figuring out the goal of the puzzle as part of the puzzle, but it should be kept in mind that this kind of thing is quite difficult. Most of one's time is spent trying to figure out both the goal and the solution at the same time.

Also, many of the puzzles had huge data sets to consider, which when coupled with unknown goals, makes for a huge space of options to explore. For example, one puzzle had a grid with words around the outside of the grid. These words were at varying distances from the edge of the grid in a way that surely conveyed information. The grid contained maybe a dozen sets of two or more words scrambled together. The words were broken up into groups of 5 letters each. The border consisted of black and white tiles that were clearly encoding data in groups of 4 tiles. This is just a small part of the data encoded on that piece of paper, and I could go on for pages and pages, describing the possible methods required for decoding the data.

As it was, after separating the words from each other, they letters of one word encoded ones and the letters of the other word encoded zeros, and these were combined in groups of five to produce letters of the alphabet which spelled out more instructions and the location data. Except it wasn't obvious which word encoded one and which encoded zero, so you had to try both options. And one of the words had a missing letter for no apparent reason. And there were asterisks in between words for no apparent reason. And one word had an extra letter that was to be ignored. Even so, the answer still contained the seeming nonsense word "lat" which it took us some time to realize was an abbreviation for "latitude".

Anyway, I would think the best difficulty level to aim for would be for any given puzzle to have half the teams solving it without clues and within a reasonable time frame. Instead, I think the observed number for an average puzzle is more like 20%.

Clues in this puzzle quest were handled in a very organic, human way, which was interesting. Charlie would examine what information you'd figured out and give you what he thought would be the most helpful clue for where you were at. Previous puzzle quests had more mechanical clue systems that would often mean the first two clues you purchased were telling you information you had already figured out, and the part you were stuck on would not be explained until the third and last clue.

All in all, this puzzle quest seemed somewhat less well organized than my previous experiences, and the ending was especially haphazard. People arrived just as the food vendors closed. It wasn't clear at all that we could go inside the Walker cafe, but nobody gave us a hard time at all, so perhaps they were previously notified? We were supposed to end at 6pm, but it was actually more like 6:30 when a winner was announced, and the announcement was very subdued and kind of awkward. The crowd's attention was not drawn to the event. Charlie had his back to the room when he was announcing. The end of the even was never declared. It was obvious to my team that we were nowhere near completing the last puzzle and we were exhausted and decided to just leave.

It was some time after that I discovered that I'd misplaced my car. I'd often feared doing that, and realized there is no good way to find it once you do so. The blocks were not in a regular grid, so there wasn't a single, mechanical routine one could follow to search the whole area. The effort ended up being puzzle 7 and it proved just as frustrating as the rest, finally being solved after about an hour and fifteen minutes of searching. Except this time I was alone, really tired, and it was dark. I wondered if I would feel a huge wave of relief upon finding my car, but my mood just returned to neutral. That seems to be the case for me a lot. I go through some unpleasant experience, hoping and hoping that it will end. Then when it finally does, I don't feel elation. I just return to neutral. I think most other people do feel elation at the end of suffering.

Oh, lastly, Charlie mentioned offhandedly something about being the only person who'd worked on the puzzle quest this time? He didn't sound resentful at all, just like it'd been a lot of work. I'm not sure what to make of this. Obviously there were lots of people there helping him host today, and of course he wasn't trying to deny that. Also, he must have had people play test the game at least once, right? That would still leave puzzle design and tweaking, document creation and proofreading, location scouting, and all the other zillions of details that need to be taken care of. Could he really have done all that himself? It staggers the mind. Perhaps I misunderstood him or he was exaggerating to make a point? Regardless, designing and hosting a puzzle quest seems like a herculean task even for a very involved team of 6 or more people.

(no subject)

There is a WWII strategy game that Hans found too complicated to learn. It's called Hearts of Iron II. I installed it and took a whack at the tutorials, but they didn't explain enough and I couldn't even successfully complete the tiny tutorial missions.

The appeal is that whenever I watch WWII documentaries, I'm always struck by the various blunders made by the Germany and can't help but wonder how successful they could have been had they made wiser decisions. For example, they neglected jet fighter research in favor of jet bombers (which never materialized). They seemed obsessed with strategic bombers even though they never successfully produced them, and even though the allied strategic bombers were of questionable value anyway. They spent loads of money on the V weapons, which had no military utility. They let the english army escape at Dunkirk. They delayed invading the Soviet Union on schedule in order to pull Italy's ass out of the fire. They declared war on the US immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, instead of doing nothing and letting the US be distracted by a war with Japan. They didn't step up the economy to a full war footing until the end of the war, at which point they had run out of men and oil. They never secured adequate oil supplies. Etc. Etc.

Most WWII strategy games don't actually let you change any of these decisions. You're a general and you just follow your orders and take your objectives. But this game actually lets you take the place of, ahem, Hitler, so you are free to make better decisions and see what that might lead to.

I was about to uninstall it, but then it occurred to me to search for a walkthrough, and it turns out, someone has written a fantastic walkthrough for just the scenario I wanted to play - a fairly realistic campaign playing Germany starting in 1936. So I gave the game one more try.

It takes about 20 minutes just to configure the game well. That's a bad sign. There are pages and pages of choices for which notifications you want to see, and how you want to receive them. The walkthrough then gives maybe a half hour of various commands you want to give your various units and cities before letting the time advance even one day. After entering all of those though, I was ready to go!

So then you let time advance for a day, and pause it again. That takes about 3 seconds. Then you have another maybe 10 minutes of adjustments you have to make to your economy. Then you run for another few seconds. Every step of the way I had to carefully follow the instructions in the walk through, item by item otherwise I would have been hopelessly lost. Eventually I started to get the basics of some aspects such as selecting which technology to research, selecting a research team to work on the technology, allocating industrial output early on, and trading with other nations for raw materials.

It ended up taking maybe 6 hours to run about 2 years of game time. By that time, I'd doubled economic output by following the recipe, which is fantastic performance during any period, but especially for a country mired in the great depression. However I still had yet to declare war on anyone, or engage in any military action whatsoever. In fact, only right at the very end of that time period did I even begin building up my military.

Instead you spend all your time doing economic busywork. You carefully watch a series of sliders, tweaking their settings 1% to the left or right depending on the exact value of some numbers. In other words, after 6 hours of playing I barely understood the game and still hadn't done anything that was actually fun so I uninstalled the game and gave up. I'm sure I could have eventually defeated the allies, but only at the expense of all of my freetime for the next 4 weeks.

The Girlfriend Rules

Rules of various people I've dated:

1) No wiggling, twitching, or vibrating.
2) No talking about movies. Especially not after leaving the theater. I can talk about movies, but you may not do so in my presence - even with your friends.
3) No talking about jazz saxophone. In fact, just don't mention the saxophone.
4) Do not touch me when I am trying to go to sleep. Also don't move.
5) Do not tidy up my apartment.
6) Do not look in my closet. Literally. You can look through the open door but do not poke your head in and do not touch anything inside.
7) Do not talk about snakes. Do not even say the word "snake".
8) No ska.
9) I will call you every night. Just get used to it.
10) Do not talk about sex or violence and teddy bears at the same time. One or the other. Not both.
11) If we are together in bed, my dog must be in the same room.
12) Private parts are for sex. Otherwise they do not exist. Stop thinking about them right now.
13) Family gatherings are mandatory.
14) Do not talk about my driving. In fact, do not even make little noises of fear or even have a concerned look on your face or you will have to get out and walk.
15) Do not say my clothes are all gray because I wash them together. I don't care. Do not say it.
16) No, you may not listen to me sing. Don't ask again.
17) And no, you can't watch the video tape of me conducting either. That's why I hid it. Do not look for it or there will be trouble.
18) Stop talking about previous girlfriends. I don't care if it's a funny story. And especially don't talk about HER.
19) Do not refer to my brother's sex life. My brother is a mannequin. Shut up! He does not!
20) When a really gothed out hottie comes on the TV, do not say, "woah!"
21) Breakfast food is not to be eaten for breakfast. It is ok for lunch or dinner though, however cereal may never be eaten with milk under any circumstances. Dry is fine.
22) No Old Dirty Bastard. No. No. No. No.

I imagine I have imposed similarly quirky rules, although I probably can't remember most of them because they just seem like common sense to me.
1) No tickling. None at all. Maybe I can tickle you but you can not tickle me.
2) Do not play night time music during the day.
3) No nu metal.
4) No black metal or anything similar.
5) No anime sound tracks.
6) No music that is funny to 4channers like Let The Eagle Soar by former attorney general John Ashcroft.
7) Random snack foods are not a meal.

(no subject)

I babysat Jasmine tonight. She was trying to get itunes to put music on her ipod and since itunes is super confusing and hard to use, she was having trouble. I suggested she google what she wanted to do to find instructions and she resisted. Then after about 10 more minutes of struggling she relented and brought up a browser. I told her what search string to use and the first link was a good, brief instruction set for doing exactly what she wanted to do. She was pleased.

Then she went back to google on her own to figure out how to do other things twice. I was quite pleased and it seemed more natural for her each time she did it. I think I just taught her a new skill - one that will make technology much easier for her to use.

The more I hang out with her, the more she seems willing to trust that I'm not being stupid, selfish, or irrational when I say something. Instead she seems to trust that I'm being amusing, possibly dorky, and just possibly helpful. It takes a lot longer than in movies, although in movies the role models usually take really drastic, unrealistic measures.