30 Aug – 1 Sept: Three day weekend

While it is nominally Labor Day weekend, I did do some work, mainly because students find Labor Day weekend the perfect time to catch up on assignments and, when they get stuck, to ask questions.  Lots of questions about sticks & stones in counting and file i/o in Python.

On Saturday, I made dark chocolate coconut macaroons because I was in a chocolate mood.  I’ve been popping one of these every few hours.  I reduced the sugar a smidge but maybe put too much coconut as it’s not really brownie levels of chocolate like I was hoping.

The rest of the weekend was lots of small things related to moving in: turn in keys to my old place; play mortgage and HOA dues; place another Amazon order, including a shower caddy and stuff to go in it; sort through stuff on the bedroom floor so the roomba can vacuum; create a home maintenance calendar… that I’ll start next week.

I tried DDP Yoga for the first time.  It’s a mix of yoga and dynamic tension.  I did work up a sweat, and my heart rate is higher than normal yoga.  We’ll see how it works long term.


29-30 Aug: Games

I guess the theme for today is games.

How to lose your faith in humanity: read the comments on any YouTube video about a game.

Anyway, I had heard that Google had teamed up with Udacity to host a MOOC on Android development.  Except the first time I checked it out, I couldn’t see past Udacity’s paid guided version to see the free-as-advertised version.  There’s also a course on UX design, which may be useful when we design Beast Academy online (may be too late for AoPS version 3).  There look like fun things to try out when I have time.

So thoughts naturally ran to what games I could make for a project.  Finger Ball would be easy to implement: the rules are simple, and I’ve already worked out the AI (though adding in an adaptive AI using n-grams might be cool).

However, my quidditch design (the one where each house plays like its element: Gryffindor = Fire, powerful but only in bursts; Hufflepuff = Earth, slow and steady wins the race; Ravenclaw = Air, quick and mobile; Slytherin = Water, fluidity means tough to pin down but can still hit hard) is the design that’s worrying me gameplay being dragged down by too much extra junk, so maybe having a computer handle some of the junk will help.

Then I thought about my command & control game, but the current iteration uses cards to mimic command & control problems by preventing players from ordering any unit they want.  It would be gimmicky to port that to the computer, so I’ll leave that as a boardgame.

Instead, what a computer can do that a boardgame can’t do easily is hidden information and uncertainty.  For example, a wargame where the player’s orders aren’t put into effect immediately, the player is uncertain how long it will be before they take hold (or how the situation will change in the mean time), or even where exactly units are at the moment.  Dean Essig has made a slew of games simulating similar command & control issues.

Meanwhile, Calculords has come out on Android.  It’s probably the nerdiest game on my phone right now.  I wrote a Python program to help me score Calculord bonuses while deploying the maximum number of cards, which I’m pretty sure was not the way the game was meant to be played.  Luckily, my program only really works for up to 6 cards, 7 if I’m willing to wait minutes, 8 cards is impractical, so I have been doing some of my own thinking.

In non-game news, I fixed my disposal.  Internet to the rescue!

23-26 Aug: Retrograde

Nothing of great interest happened today (I baked some chicken), so let’s go back to this weekend.

23-24 August: This weekend was the first time I felt like I was home.  All the boxes had been put away, so my roomba could get to work.  Clean living room, clean kitchen.  I used my dishwasher and washer and dryer for the first time.  Everything so clean, and I didn’t lift a finger.

I used the daylight to explore restaurants in University Heights and Hillcrest.  I started clearing out my recipe backlog by making blueberry crumb cake. (Anything with streusel get a plus in my book. I used extra blueberries, and it was delicious. Maybe cut back the sugar a smidge. People at work raved about it.)  I played Civ V, sorted through my papers, found Arendse’s letter (she’s during Danish subtitles for TED talks on YouTube!), and wrote her back.

26 August: My condo has internet! I feel like a whole person again. I can finally do internet things… like email Erica not during work hours (she got the lecturer position!). Someone at work got a new puppy, so I gave her my baby/pet door, the one with gaps too wide to keep bunnies out. Luyi gave me a going away present: snacks for Bunbury and me.

Oh, one idea did come to me today.  What if my Narbonic card game was a deck builder? But not with all cards available, like in Dominion, but in a rotating marketplace.  And with more permanent / semi-permanent cards, like Star Realms, so there’s still some tableau mechanic going on.

27 Aug: A new beginning

I’ve finally moved into my new place.  Let’s dust this blog off.

Today, I was greeted at work by donuts.  Nice!  As compensation for an all-hands-on-deck Python grading session.  Meh.  So I got to learn tkinter in order to grade homework.  We also got a free lunch out of it.  Who says there isn’t a free lunch?  Oh, right… the grading.

Look, freakin’ Russian paratroopers were captured inside Ukraine.  Can this farce end already?!

I let Bunbury into the living room again today to explore a bit.  It was cute to watch him hop around, exploring and rubbing his chin on everything.  But he was also hungry and wanted to test everything to see if it was food, so back he went with his salad.

We lost another war in Clash of Clans.  But now I have permission to kick out some inactive people, so I expunged 5 people who I’m not sure even play anymore.

I made this recipe for dinner.  I paired it with leftover Lucky Lemongrass from Loving Hut (soy protein fried until it’s crispy, and I have no idea what spice mix they used, but I need to find out) and quinoa cooked in chicken broth.  It was so so good.

The Top Gear guys appeared on Phineas and Ferb.  Ha!

Science & Engineering Fair

On Wednesday, I volunteered as a judge for the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair.  They had too many math and CS judges, so I was put in Engineering – Electrical and Mechanical, middle school division.

There were two really impressive projects.  One student studied the effect of EM radiation on wavelength division multiplexing in fiber optics.  I questioned him about WDM and he seemed to understand the concept pretty well (he gave good analogies for multiplexing and wavelength division).  He was a bit shaky on error correction, and he didn’t actually do a physical experiment. but he did learn how to run simulate the system using software, including learning the language used to describe the system(!).  Truly impressive for a middle schooler.

Another student tried to build a hearing aid for listening to violin.  Okay, really it was an amplifier/filter circuit.  And her mentor (who does speech, I believe) pointed her toward a bandpass filter designer that was more concerned about magnitude response than phase response.  But she breadboarded her circuit, including an op amp (how many op amps did we fry in college?) and tested her circuit by seeing how it affected various perceptual qualities.  Of course, loudness was best.  The student and her project would gain a lot from talking to a sound engineer.

Then there were all the projects that students did because their teachers made them.  I’ll say this: I’m not very impressed with the award system the fair uses.  Every entry gets either 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place.  There is no way to not get a prize.  My group handed out roughly a third 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  An uninspired project that performs an experiment (we saw several) gets 3rd.

Finally, one interesting observation: I asked a lot of the students, “Did anything in your project raise more questions / make you want to look deeper into an aspect?”  I believe if you asked a grad student, they will invariably have something that bugs them or something that interest them or something that must be answered.  All of the students said no.  From the stellar projects down to the generic projects.  It’s like admitting you still have questions is a form of weakness rather than admitting you have a curious mind.

9 Feb: North Park

The target for today was around 30th and University.

– Cafe Calabria’s woodfired pizza wasn’t open yet, so I went to Fatboy’s Corner Store and Deli.  Got a pastrami and swiss on an onion roll, which came with potato salad.  Not bad.

– The main commercial streets are definitely more used looking than residential roads.  Telegraph was better at keeping up appearances than this area.

– Houses in this area look a notch below what I saw Wednesday and Friday.  Or maybe because I’m seeing them in daylight and not in the dark?

– Grabbed a mexican cocoa and sat in the lounge of Cafe Calabria.  The crowd is mostly 30-somethings stopping in for a drink or meeting up.

– Cafe Calabria serves Neapolitan pizza.  I forgot exactly what toppings I ordered, but whatever brassica it was was bitter.  Combined with excessive oil, it made it hard to enjoy the pizza.

7 Feb: University Heights

Today we’re on the north side of University Heights, on the west end of Adams.

– Bahn Thai is small but busy.  Too busy to get a table, so I get a pad thai to go.
– I can easily see several open restaurants and bars from the door, including vegetarian and Ethiopian.
– The crowd is 20s to 30s and doing well for themselves.
– The houses along Georgia look older than what I saw Wednesday, but they are less tightly spaced and hence larger.