Saturday, April 17, 2010

10,000 Games

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm slightly addicted to online blitz chess.  If you're not familiar with blitz, basically it is 5 minute speed chess.  I like that I can quickly take a few minutes each day to play a few games.  Keeps my brain sharper than video games.  Since I opened my current account almost exactly four years ago (April 28, 2006), I've played 10,000 games. Won 5073, lost 4298, drew 629.

I've actually been playing online since 1999.  I wasn't very good when I started.  Back then my rating was under 1300, but I've been improving year after year.  The biggest jump was about 100 points when I stopped playing 5 5 (five minutes a game plus 5 seconds added with each move) and started playing 5 0 (five minutes a game with no time added after a move).  I'm pretty good at thinking fast and win a lot of games on the clock. 

I'm also too easily distracted - I check email or surf the web a lot during games - but I've become what is considered a decently strong blitz player.  I figure I'm currently averaging around 1650, and a little over a week ago I set a new personal best, 1718.

I play at the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS).  It is free.  Really and truly free, not one of those 'free' sites that only try to sell a membership.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't starve Pac-Man, Don't feed Pac-Man, Don't set your child on Fire.

Stuff from China always seems to have translation problems, very often funny ones.  I can't decide if they are a result of mistranslation by an eager but inept Chinese ESL student, or a drunken Australian backpacker/consultant who tries hard to make everything as funny as possible.   I once had a knife 'made in China' with the warning "Keep Out of Children".

The solution to language barriers are symbols.  There are many fairly universal symbols - the washroom man and woman, the circle with a diagonal line meaning don't do, the blue wheelchair, the skull and crossbones for hazardous...  Leaf was at the dollar store the other day and picked up a toy fishing rod that magnetically catches little fish.  Mars and Odin both love magnetic fishing at fun fairs.  The package had some crazy safety symbols on the back.

I'm sure they made complete sense the the person who designed them...  From left to right, Do not starve Pac-Man, Do not feed Pac-Man, Do not set your child on Fire.

Or maybe it is supposed to be Do Not Eat Pac-Man on a Plate, Do Not Shoot an Arrow into your Kids Eye while Cramming a Box down their Throat because they will Cry, Do not let your kid grow up to be Don King.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Google map update!

One of the things with living in the boonies is that you don't get the nifty high resolution imagery google maps that you do in the city.  It used to be particularly bad here.  The location of our house was shown as a giant and non-existent lake.  Obscuring clouds and some pretty crappy resolution.  You could zoom in further, but only get some big blurry pixelization.  The red box on the old map is the approximate location of the new highest resolution image below.

Within the last few months, some new updated imagery came on line.  Still nowhere near the quality of city maps (did you know the super high resolution maps are not from a satellite but from aircraft?), but much better than before.  Actual streets and many buildings are, for the most part, visible.  There is a lighter coloured blur that is probably our house.  We are also no longer shown under a lake.

We are also now partially covered by Street View.  Main street and highways only, but a glimpse of our house can be caught through some trees.  That imagery is from late August.

Books of April 2010

April 2010 Book Total
11 Books
4631 pages

Stephen Hunter
ISBN 0-7432-3808-7
403 pages
April 3


March Upcountry
David Weber and John Ringo
ISBN 067131985X
528 pages
April 4

March to the Sea
David Weber and John Ringo
ISBN 074343580X
672 pages
April 5

March to the Stars
David Weber and John Ringo
ISBN 0743488180
626 pages
April 6

We Few
David Weber and John Ringo
ISBN 1416520848
576 pages
April 9

A quadrilogy about Prince Roger.  Not a bad series.  Very similar to Weber's more recent Safehold series.  Technologically advanced persons in primitive society.  Use of Roman warfighting skills, then gunpowder and cannons, then sailing ships.  Throw in his disdain of organized religion and its assorted hypocrisies, a few jabs about the stupidity of the imperial system vs metric, and in the last third of the last book a techno space battle reminiscent of his Starfire series.

The Soccer Referee's Manual 4th Edition
David Ager
ISBN 0-7136-6676-5
150 pages
April 10

Somewhat disappointing.  Don't get me wrong, a good book, explains the laws well (except where laws have changed since published), but it is more of a 'learn the laws' kind of book.  I was hoping for 'learn to be a better referee'.  The questions and answers are OK, but pretty basic.  I prefer or You are the Ref since they can also cover the uncommon or rare scenarios that make you go hmmmm....

Thomas N. Scortia
ISBN none
224 pages
April 14

Tel Aviv is the target of a nuclear attack from terrorists sponsored by China.  Israel retaliates, then the Soviet Union (book was written in 1974) and China fire tactical nukes at each other prompting a world-wide nuclear war, including genetically engineered bioweapons.   The only survivors are on two space stations, one American, one Soviet.  They need to unite and continue the human race.  I'm a big fan of "end of the world" fiction.  There are lots of great books out there, this is not one of them.

Hannibal Rising
Thomas Harris
ISBN 978-0-440-24448-6
368 pages
April 17

Not bad.

The Devil of Nanking
Mo Hayder
ISBN 0-00-639499-X
460 pages
April 18

Interesting, but I ended up feeling that there was too much stuff and that the too much stuff fit together in a way that seemed too contrived.

The Science in Science Fiction
Peter Nicholls, Editor
ISBN 0-517-65335-4
208 pages
April 20

A very interesting, if very dated (1982) book.  I now have at least a dozen sci-fi books added to my to-read list.  Covers all the major sci-fi action - time travel, FTL travel, energy sources, aliens... good coverage of each with some better science explanations than expected.  I had hoped for more thoughts on general technology advances and predictions.  There is the amazing "information console" predicted in 1978, along with the concern that "such communication devices" would "reduce face-to-face relationships between people".

Whistler's Angel
John R. Maxim
ISBN 0380793555
416 pages
April 27

My M-i-L recommended this, she said it was a favourite.  I was a little surprised, not the kind of book I would of thought she would be into.  It was OK.  Part of a larger "universe" of interconnected stories/characters.  If I noticed one at a thrift store I'd probably pick it up, but wouldn't go out of my way.