Monday, December 1, 2008

Tell me about yourself.

Interviewer: So, tell me about yourself.

Applicant: I'm an unconventional thinker.

Interviewer: How's that?

Applicant: Well, first of all I find that question hypocritical.

Interviewer: Why would you say that?

Applicant: It is meant to gauge my level of preparation, yet requires no preparation on you part.

Interviewer: It's just a question that most applicants expect.

Applicant: Then they expect hypocrisy. I'm not a fan of hypocrisy but I'm sure many others have learned to expect it and tolerate it.

Interviewer: It's just a way for people to talk about themselves.

Applicant: I'm not saying that it can't be rationalized. I saying that it is hypocritical.

Interviewer: OK. How would you start an interview?

Applicant: Without being hypocritical?

Interviewer: If you can manage.

Applicant: I would first drop the "I know nothing about you" game. If I have your resume in front of me I am already in a position of advantage. To demand a full presentation with only a few words furthers the asymmetry. I would show that I have done some preparation including having read your resume. I would summarize it to the best of my ability and ask for errors and omissions.

Interviewer: You still haven't given the applicant a chance to speak freely about themselves.

Applicant: If I were looking to get more personal information from the applicant I would first share some details about myself. This would level the disclosure balance and give an impression about the content and level of detail I was looking for.

Interviewer: Telling them what to tell you isn't letting them speak freely.

Applicant: It would be a lead that the applicant could choose to follow or ignore.

Interviewer: That would be highly irregular. That's not how my interview went.

Applicant: And somebody in your lineage was the first to believe that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

Interviewer: Of course it isn't. So, can you tell me about yourself?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

People should be allowed to make stupid mistakes

I was thrilled today to hear on PEI will not be passing any cell phone driving legislation any time soon. I was not so thrilled to read in the Cadre, the monthly UPEI paper, about why they put up the $190,000 iron fence. It was to protect pedestrians. It was to protect people from willfully choosing to jaywalk.

When you are given power over people it is tempting to try to make them appear smart by taking away stupid choices. Perhaps Randy Pauche put it best:

"The only way to get good judgment is with experience. And the only way to get experience is with bad judgment."

Protecting people from bad choices is a short term gain for a long term loss. Robbing people of experience is not good leadership.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ubiquity for flash gamers

I love Ubiquity for many reasons, but for now I am applying it to flash games.

I like playing flash games. There are so many to choose from, they are small, accessible and often extremely innovative. Unfortunately, often they are played on a small area of a window on screen that is increasingly being eaten up by buttons and bars.

Internet Explorer and Firefox have an option to get rid of all of the bars with full screen mode, keyboard-shortcut: f11. But this still gives the player a small flash area on a big window. This is where Ubiquity comes in.

Ubiquity has a function called "zoom". Yes, other bars and extensions have zoom functions too, but typically they only change the size of text. Not very useful when playing flash games. Ubiquity zoom is different.

Ubiquity zoom will zoom in on an entire page. Even more so, it zooms in on the Firefox window. This makes buttons, bars, text and entire pages bigger. The net effect when used in full screen mode is a flash game that is virtually full screen increasing playability.

To install it you will need to login. You can use the following:

email: ashley.johnston@gmail.com
password: ubiquity

Monday, November 10, 2008

Democracy: Voting and negotiation

Democracy has been praised for empowering the masses by giving them the vote. There is however another political action, negotiation, that is still reserved for the political class.

Rolling Stone, "Worst Congress Ever":
To ensure that Democrats can't alter any of the last-minute changes, Republicans have overseen a monstrous increase in the number of "closed" rules — bills that go to the floor for a vote without any possibility of amendment. This tactic undercuts the very essence of democracy: In a bicameral system, allowing bills to be debated openly is the only way that the minority can have a real impact, by offering amendments to legislation drafted by the majority.

The role of the political party was to increase the negotiating power of the political class. Doing the same level of organization with the electorate gives you constructions like Moveon.org.

It is a step in the right direction. And yet far from what is possible. The most meaningful negotiations happen between peers. Moveon.org is giant, I am small. It is a similar problem to dealing directly with government. It is big, I am small.

There is a different way that politics can be shaped to form a more empowering government. Imagine you could vote for anybody. Snap out of the reality where there is a list created off in the aether then presented to you, and into a reality where you could empower any living person with the power of your vote. That person could be your friend, a family member or a professional acquaintance. And because you already have a relationship with this person, and because you are peers, the two of you can discuss how to protect what is important to you. Your representative can then choose to use his votes to empower another, and so on up the chain.

The future of democracy must be between peers. It is the only way to share power effectively.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At least we know who is president

All of the polling data put Coleman and Franken at neck and neck. This of course made me confident that Coleman would take the prize. My ace in the hole was supposed to be Barkley. Third party candidates are often listed under 'Other' for telephone polls, so I thought Barkley's representation would be slightly under represented, likely taking voters away from Franken.

Regardless of the validity of the reasoning, I was right. By just over 477 votes says CNN.com out of 2,860,193. If that looks tight, I wonder if it might be a record. That is 0.016%, and falls well within the half of a percent that demands a mandatory recount in Minnesota. No, I am not taking any victory laps about my fulfilled prophecy, and now I am less confident than before that Coleman will maintain his seat in the senate.

The race is important as it is part of a string of occurrences that could give the Democratic Party a filibuster-proof senate. The current count has the Dem's 4 seats away, while there are 4, including Coleman-Franken, that remain undecided from Tuesday's election.

There is also the Lieberman question. He is one of two independents that currently caucus with the Democrats. He campaigned for McCain and may switch loyalties in the senate.

Losing any one of these seats will keep the Democrats shy if a filibuster-proof majority.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lawsuits in Minnesota

Coleman is suing Franken over the content of a television and radio spot. The ad contains allegations that Coleman is the 4th most corrupt US senator, and that he is living almost rent free in a D.C. apartment. There are also other allegations in the ad that are not part of the law suit. There is no chance that the suit will be decided in time for the election.

Now a Coleman supporter is being sued for forcing the plaintiff to make payments to Coleman through his wife. This suit was pulled, but then reinstated on Thurday.

So it is perhaps a great time for Independence Party Candidate Dean Barkley to take to the air waves with his one and only ad for this election: "I'm one of you."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Optimizing behavior - Revisited yet again

For those not up to date on my mandatory SSP class at UPEI, I am currently on course for a 64% without completing a final mandatory paper, or so I was told on Thursday. After what I can only assume was a discussion with administrators who demand discipline from students, my instructor now tells me that failure to do a satisfactory job of this paper puts my work ethic in question, which then lowers my mark for in-class work.

Yes, I still plan on putting this to the test. Previously, I asked the instructor about the minimum mark I needed on the paper to pass the course. The answer came back (-15%). That was reasoned from previous givens, and was consistent with all that had been said before. Well, all except for the project being mandatory.

Now, somehow magically, the standard has risen. There is now a feedback loop that was not previously discussed in the marking schedule. Even though the final mark is calculated from two blocks of marks, the in-class work and the final paper, the final paper now influences the in-class mark.

I challenge anybody to make sense out of that. If you can't and you decide to suspend me from UPEI based upon it, I have a moral obligation to tell everybody I can reach know how decisions are made at UPEI. I have a moral obligation to let Islanders know how their own personal tax-money pit manages human capital. I take education and obligations seriously. Perhaps I will get another chance to show how seriously.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Optimizing behavior - Revisited

Follow up on The Scourge of Optimizing Behavior

I got the number. I wanted to know the minimum score I would need on my final paper to get a 'P' in my SSP program.

The final mark is calculated like this:

Final Mark = 75%X(Class work) + 25%X(Final Paper)

If this is higher than 60% I get a 'P' on my transcript, rather than an 'F'. The final mark is never published.

So if I set the final mark to 60% we get:

.6 = .75C + .25P

Isolating P we get:

P = 2.4 - 3C

My instructor tells me my class work is between 85% and 90%. Let's take the worst case scenario of 85%. Sub .85 for C:

P = 2.4 - 3(.85)
P = -.15 = -15%!

That's right! I would have to get minus 15% on my final paper to be switched from a P to an F on my transcript.

This is the information the instructor was trying to keep from me. And I see why. Most school work is meaningless enough working for a grade, but to not even be working for a grade would just be foolish.

But the assignment is MANDATORY, so I will be sure to hand in a sheet of paper with something scribbled on it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Scourge of Optimizing Behavior

I am now coming from a Student Success Program (SSP) class. Taking this class is one of the conditions of my probation at UPEI. The class is not worth a credit, and in fact there will not even be a final mark published, merely a P or F.

To this end I have no interest in putting any more into the class than what is needed to get a P. So I put a question to the instructor, "What is the minimum mark I would need on my final paper to get a P?" The instructor told me that he wanted to get me out of such optimizing behavior. And this is not new to me as I experienced similar resistance to optimization while in the military.

The entire SSP course is about giving new tools to get through academia. But just like my instructor's comments, the tools are more geared to putting more into your studies than getting more out.

The common theme here is that if you are not optimizing then you are wasting. And they want you to waste, so long as they receive the excess.

Coleman suspends negative ads before debate

Obama has been pulling ahead in the polls. ERIC BLACK puts Obama's lead somewhere between commanding and dominating. Real clear politics puts the count at 313-158-67 (read: Obama-McCain-Toss Up).

Franken v. Coleman v. Barkley hotter than ever. The advertisement violence between Franken and Coleman has left their names worse for the ware, though Coleman committed recently to suspend his negative ads. But Barkley has not engaged in any of it. His name is intact and is now polling at 14%. The Barkley campaign knows that these numbers don't mean so much for third party candidates as they face down the 'wasted ballot' syndrome. As respondents who like a third party over the phone may vote for a major party candidate to protect their interests. Barkley suggests this behavior becomes far less once a third party candidate reaches the 25% mark.

All three candidates participated in the race's second debate, held on Sunday, Oct 12. No clear winner has emerged. Reports suggest Barkley held Coleman responsible for the economic meltdown, as it happened on his watch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Minnesota RNC Trials

As reported by Minnesota's City Pages, the Minnesota City Council has declined to launch an investigation into police conduction during the Republican National Convention earlier this month

[...]Ostrow could’ve just come out with it and said, “We don’t see a need to mount an obligatory sham investigation, because the Minneapolis police department is moving forward with an obligatory sham investigation of its own,” which, granted, would have made for even worse PR.


Read more at City Pages.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mashedlife.com Review

I heard about it for the first time today, but mashed life already has a slough of sites touting the revolution in its simplicity. You will have to go to the site for a comprehensive explanation, but it allows for one click access to password protected sites. Yes, this is useful, and it has a few other neat features that will not be hard to find out about.

I don't expect everything to work perfectly on launch. Ubiquity has issues, but I am still a strong advocate. However, since nobody else on the web seems to have anything bad to say about mashed life, I will fill in the niche.

I found 3 issues with the service.

1) It didn't work for all sites.
The one button that is supposed to give you access to sites is a bookmark (or more precisely a bookmarklet). That bookmarklet scans the page you are trying to login to and pastes your username and password into the appropriate fields when it finds them. Or, more precisely, if it finds them. It didn't work for 2 of the 10 sites I tried before gave up on the service. One of them used frames, the other had an unusual form. Mashed life was useless on both.

2) One account per site.
The Firefox password manager can assign an unlimited number of username and password pairs to a given site. Mashed life will only store one. I have more than one Google account. I have heard of people having multiple Facebook accounts. The second account will have to be committed to memory, or stored in some other service. but Mashed life is not the final solution for this situation.

UPDATE:
Kevin pointed out you can use multiple accounts for a single service. Mashed life will then direct you to "a selection page to ask you select which [...]account you want to log in to"
.

3) Can't distinguish multiple login options.
My web host has a login form that has two buttons. One is for site maintenance, the other is for it's affiliate program. Mashed life's one button login automatically logs me into the affiliate program. I would have to use another service to access the maintenance tools.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When the elephants come to town

Minneapolis paper City Pages requested readers send in cartoons about the RNC under the heading "When the elephants come to town". This entry stands out:
[http://media.citypages.com/2325302.0.jpg]

See more here.

It looks like it has been a rocky senate campaign. Minneapolis Star-Tribune now reports Franken(D) within 4 points of Coleman(R). Independence Party candidateDean Barkley is at a steady 13%.

Both Republican and DFL primaries were held on September 9. Coleman won his party nomination with 91% of the vote. Franken only won his nomination with 65% of the vote. Coleman has been trying to scoop up the remainder of the democratic voters, but has not yet been able to get a commanding lead with this strategy. Possibly because there were actually more ballots cast for Franken (164,136) than for Coleman (130,973).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Johnston's Law

The most employable trade will always be the useful idiot.

Minnesota Politics

For a course at UPEI I am following U.S. election through the media of Minnesota. I am required to submit a weekly summary of my findings. I will be publishing those findings on this blog with the label Minnesota08. Enjoy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

How a cell phone ban is different from drunk driving

I argued in a previous article that a cell phone ban was bad legislation because it wouldn't do anything that the Highway Traffic Act and property rights doesn't already do. Or if they don't already deal with the issue of distracted driving they are broken and need fixing, not another separate law to deal with the hole.

I also anticipated that such an argument could easily be applied to drunk driving. While I would be interested in hearing the case made, I don't endorse this argument at this time.

One reason that I am more against the cell ban than drunk driving is the nature of detection. It is very difficult to detect a drunk driver by merely watching the body in the driver's seat. It is usually necessary to observe the irregular driving behavior to suspect drunk driving.

Cell driving is different. This can be detected by observing the driver, separate from driving behavior. Irregular driving is not necessary to detect cell driving. That is to say, those who have been cell driving since the first cell phone, who have decades of experience, and who have never had a single incident, can be charged for doing what they have found a way to manage perfectly.

Conversely, those that have learned to drive drunk perfectly without showing irregular behavior will rouse no suspicion from passing authorities.

The tools of governance should be only as fine as are needed to create a free and prosperous society. Laws should be coarse and inspired, abstract and prophetic. Writing law is an art. It is the legislators job to carefully craft a compromise between the mutually exclusive ends of rights and responsibilities.

A legislator spending time writing into law the difference between driver distraction of a cell phone and a radio, is a waste of everybody's time, resources and freedom.

How formal education hinders understanding of fundamental concepts

Or, I knew school was bad for me.

This lecture discusses fundamental ideas in science that are (marginally) better understood by children before schooling than even MIT science graduates.



I have gotten a lot of heat lately from friends about a choice I made not to complete two of my courses last semester. The courses were both completed save a final paper. In trying to complete these papers I had several conversations with the professor, the same one for both courses.

Most every one of these conversations ended in frustration, failing to get my professor to re-evaluate his assertions even in the face of new information and perspectives. It was as though he expected me to assume his assertions merely because he was the professor.

As the above lecture demonstrates, teachers and professors may, even in the objective sciences let alone the more subjective humanities, switch useful ideas of the student into the less useful ideas of the professor. Only a healthy challenge can determine which is which.

The more strongly teachers and professors resist challenges from students the more important it becomes that they be challenged.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cell phone ban is lazy legislation

CBC Story: MLAs debate reach of cellphone ban on P.E.I.

The government that governs least governs best. There is no demonstrable need for such a ban. Those that make mistakes while driving, due to inattention, carelessness, or malice, already have a legal infrastructure to deal with them. There are civil property rights and the Highway Traffic Act.

This is similar to the argument against the need for hate crime legislation. It is not the states job to micro-manage what goes on in our heads or our cars. The state has a role to play regulating gross interactions, trying to create an environment where mutually profitable interactions can take place. The more mutually profitable interactions that are able to take place without state interference the more free and prosperous that society will be.

There are those that can talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time. Should these people be disallowed to do so even while there is an infrastructure for those that try to do so unsuccessfully. If there were an accident tomorrow because of the use of cell phones I would say the same thing.

So long as the existing infrastructure handles those cases effectively there is no need for such a cell ban. If the civil property rights and Highway Traffic Act did not deal with these cases effectively then they should be revised abstractly. Once these existing laws where adequately revised to deal with cell phones effectively they would also be equipped to handle any other distractions that may come in the future. To legislate specifically about cell phone use is a lazy cop out.

Yes, such an argument as this can be used to attack drunk driving laws. And there may be validity to such an attack. But notice that if legal drunk driving is preposterous and phone driving isn't, then they are different problems that can have different solutions.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Canadians Choose Evolution Over Creationism

Angus Reid says so. Phew!

=======================
Polling Data

Which of these statements comes closest to your own point of view regarding the origin and development of human beings on earth?

Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years: 58%

God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years: 22%

Not sure: 20%
=======================

And it is not a question about whether you can shoehorn evolution into a Christian framework. The question is about where did we come from. Some of those 58% may be Christians, but they would not be the scary sort of Christians that sometimes keep me up at night.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

How to know when the government isn't doing enough

When farms go under
Farmers are doing the best that they can. They are coming on hard times and they need the government to help them see it through. It is not the farmer's fault if their farm is financially unstable. Farmers have a right to earn a living just like everybody else. When a farm doesn’t provide a living for a farmer it is the government’s job to step in. Government is supposed to stand up and say, ‘You are a good farmer. It is the market that is bad. We will help you until the market smartens up.’

When people steal gas
Gas prices are too high, gas attendants are unprotected, and store owners are losing money. A BC gas attendant was dragged to death chasing down a gas thief. BC has since put in place a law requiring customers to pay before they pump to protect gas attendants. But PEI gas attendants are still at risk. On PEI customers do not have to pay before they pump and that is the government's failing.

At the plea of consumers the government has flatly refused to lower the gas tax fuelling the theft. The high gas tax lowers demand for gas and increased theft, both of which adversely affect profits of gas station owners. They should not allow the government to treat them this way. The government should promptly impose mandatory pump-then-pay legislation and lower gas tax.

When tuition costs spiral out of control
Education is priceless. Education is the only way to get job offers in Toronto, and the only way to be able to tell other people what to do. It is not fair that it's so expensive. Students have to go to school if they are going to be successful, and the government needs to help them do that. Students can only pay so much. Minimum wage helps but tuition is still expensive.

And how is UPEI supposed to pay for more new buildings without more money? They can’t. UPEI isn't going to get more money from students so it will have to get the money from the government.

When you can't earn a living
Everybody deserves to make a living. But not everybody can produce enough to live. Hello government! When people don’t make enough money to live the government should give them more. Or even better, the government should tell employers to give them more.

People just entering the workforce, like high school students, usually don’t need to depend on wages to live but they benefit from minimum wage too. They make more than they would if there was no minimum wage. That is like free money. Free money is good.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Another way to pay for wage subsidies

CBC Story: UPEI students to get tuition cut

As I have said in other posts, I support wage subsidies in lieu of a minimum wage for various reasons. A major hurdle in making the shift from a minimum wage to a subsidized wage system would be raising the revenue to pay for the subsidy.

I was critical when Premier Ghiz announced to cut tuition at UPEI, especially while also promising tax credits to graduates that stay on PEI. There is a contradiction in there. Do we have anything for grads to do on PEI or no? If yes, then we shouldn't have to bribe them to stay here. If no, then we shouldn't be lowering tuition to produce more graduates.

Rather than playing this game of chasing your own tail, producing grads we can't use then paying them to live on PEI, we could use that money to develop the work force.

Granted, PEI labour market statistics are somewhat optimistic. From April 2008 to May 2008, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went from 11.2% to 9.6%. This is however still a significant departure from the national unemployment rate of 6.1%.

The PEI Government could stop paying to produce new graduates we don't have a place for. It can walk away from its promise to pay graduates to live on PEI. It can use the money it saves to subsidize wages for low income Islanders and remove the need for a minimum wage.

I have argued previously that removing the minimum wage would then create more opportunities for businesses. These opportunities would help create a more competitive economy on PEI, thus creating a need for learned employees, like those that come out of UPEI.

The horse comes before the cart.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sola Rola Solutions

Levels
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Be sure to check out complete solutions for Gridlock.


Level #1
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 3.1s


1. Right - West
2. Left - South

Top


Level #2
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 7.2s

1. right - South
2. left - East
3. right - South

Top


Level #3
You pick!
Best time 3.5s

1. Right or Left til you win.

Top


Level #4
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 11.4s

1. Right - West
2. Left - South
3. Right - West
4. Left - East

Top


Level #5
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 7.8

1. Left - South East
2. Wait for Blue to exit
3. Left - North West

Top


Level #6
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 7.0

1. Left - South
2. Right - West
3. Left - South

Top


Level #7
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 8.6s

1. Right - South of SE
2. Left - North of NE Til blue falls
3. Right - South of SE

Top


Level #8
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 12.6s

1. Right - North
2. Left - South
3. Right - West
4. Left - East

Top


Level #9
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 13.1s

1. Right - West
2. Left - South
3. Right - West
4. Left - South
5. Right - West
6. Left - South
7. Right - West

Top


Level #10
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 39.2s

. Right - East
1. Left - West
2. Right - East
3. Right - West
4. Right- East
5. Right - West
6. Right - East
7. Right - North

Top


Level #11
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 23.1s

1. Right -West
2. Left - South
3. Right - West
4. Left - North West
5. Right - East
6. Left - North
7. Right - East
8. Left - North

Top


Level #12
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 17.3s

1. Left - North
2. Right - North of West
3. Left - West of North
4. Right - North of West
5. Right - South
6. Left - East

Top


Level #13
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 38.7s

1. Right - West
2. Left - South
3. Right - West
4. Left - East
5. Right - West
6. Left - South
7. Right - West
8. Left - North
9. Right - South
1. Left - North
1. Right - South
2. Left - North
3. Right - South
4. Left - West

Top


Level #14
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 5.8s

1. Left - East
2. Right - South
3. Right - North

Top


Level #15
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 9.5s

1. Right - West
2. Right - Full Circle
3. Left - South
4. Right - North

Top


Level #16
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 14.6s

1. Right - SSE
2. Right - South (no pause needed)
3. Right - Full Circle
4. Left - East
5. Right - West

Top


Level #17
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 22.4s

1. Left - West of South
2. Right - North of West
3. Left - South
4. Right - North
5. Left - West
6. Right - North
7. Left - South
8. Right - West
9. Left - South

Top


Level #18
Red hits
Best time 28.7s

Land Mark - Red Switch Corner
1. Left - North
2. Right - South
Get Red to middle green switch
3. Left - East of North
4. Right - East || With Red on switch
5. Left - SSW
6. Left - Full Circle
7. Right - West

Top


Level #19
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 15.6s

1. Left - North
2. Right - East
3. Left - North
4. Right - East
5. Left - North
6. Right - West
7. Left - South

Top


Level #20
Land Mark - Green Gate Corner
Best time 23.8s

1. Left - West
2. Right - North
3. Left - South quickly making sure red is on the perimeter and

blue is on the inside. Rest
4. Left - North
5. Right - East
6. Left - North West
7. Right - West
8. Left - South
9. Right - West

Top


Level #21
Land Mark - Red Exit
Best time 64.9s

Get Red to green gate
Blue to green switch

Secure Red on Proper side of Green Gate
Half circle to the left

Get Blue to the blue switch
Get Red to the blue gate

Half circle to the right

Drop them both down careful not to put Red through the gate

Get Blue to the red switch, careful not to put Red throught the

blue gate again.
Red through the red gate.

Finish


Top


Level #22
Land Mark- Blue Exit Corner
Best time 19.1

1. Left - NE - Nudge Blue till he falls one level
2. Right - Until Blue is on blue switch
3. Left - North - Get red on perimiter
4. Right - South - Quickly so red falls off perimiter
5. Right - Until Red is at blue gate6.
6. Right - East - Pause
7. Right - Until you win

Get Blue to blue switch
Spin quickly to catch red on the interior of the maze.

Get Red to the blue gate

Finish

Top


Level #23
Land Mark - Blue exit corner
Best time

1. Right - East
2. Right - SSW -

3. you will have to play with it to get blue on the blue switch

closest to the red switch
3. Right - West - blue on blue switch and red hanging
4. Left - South - Blue on green switch
5. Left - Untill you win


There are two blue switches. One enclosed with green gates and an

open one. Get blue there with red hanging. It may take a few

tries. Here's how...

Spin quickly to the right to
split with blue on perimeter.
If you continue spinning you see how Blue tries to go one way and

Red the other. Get them to do that

Spin left. Let Red get the red switch. Blue trips the green

switch. Red through the green gate. Red gets his exit.

Red trips the blue gate and swings Blue to his exit.

Top


Level #24
Land Mark - Blue exit corner
Best time 18.6s

1. Right - South - slowly and red falls down lane
2. Left - North - Slowly
3. Right - South
4. Left - East
5. Right - South
6. Left - SW - With blue on perimeter
7. Left - North
8. Right - East

Red to red gate by blue switch
Blue to red switch by red exit
Red to red exit
Blue to blue exit

NO hard maneuvering required

Top


Level #25
Best time 21.3s


Red to green switch
Blue to red switch
Red to blue switch
Blue to green switch
Red to red exit

Top


Level #26
Land Mark
Best time 20.6s

RED to red gate while BLUE is on red switch, Very slow Left -

ESE, Go right to keep blue up and red down
Right turn, BLUE to red switch, RED to red gate
Left - North, slowly getting RED through green gate
Red to exit

Top


Level #27
Best time 44.3s

There is an easy way to get to any color switch

Top


Level #28
Land Mark - Green gate corner
Best time 20.5s

Right - East
Left - NW, only letting RED drop
Right - Full Rotation, NNW only letting RED drop.
Left -

Top


Level #29
Best time 66.0s

Blue through blue gate
Red through red gate
Blue through green Gate

Top


Level #30
Best time 12.7s

Blue through blue gate
Red through green gate
Blue through blue gate
Blue through green gate

Top


Level #31
Best time 69.9s

Blue through blue gate
Blue through red gate
Blue through blue gate
Blue through red gate
Blue through green gate
Blue through green gate
Blue through blue gate

Top


Level #32
Best time 50.2s

Red through blue gate
Red through red gate
Blue through green gate
Blue through green gate

Top


Level #33
Best time 75.5s

Blue through blue gate
Blue through red gate
Blue through green gate
Red through blue gate
Red through red gate

Top


Level #34
Best time 25.4s

Red through green gate
Blue through red gate
Red through blue gate
Red through red gate
Drop Blue and Red on exits from platform

Top


Level #35
Best time 56.4s

Blue through blue gate
Red through blue gate
Blue through blue gate
Red through red gate
Blue through blue gate
Red through blue gate
Blue through green gates
Red through green gate

Top


Level #36
Best time 18.8s

Red through green gate
Blue through red gate
Red through blue gates
Blue through red gate
Blue through blue gate

Top


Level #37
Best time 82.5s

Blue through red gate
Blue through blue gate
Red through red gate
Red through green gate
Red through blue gate
Blue through green gate, explain how?
Blue through red gate

Top


Level #38
Best time 28.2s

Blue through red gate
Take Red high and drop him down on blue gate
Red through blue gate
Blue back through red gate

Top


Level #39
Best time 22.5s

Blue through blue gate
Red through red 2 gates
Blue through green gate
Blue through blue gate
Blue through red gate
Red throud green gate
Blue back through red gate
Red through 2 red gates, patience with the second
Red through 2 more red gates
Blue through green gate

I recommend keeping Blue on the green gate and having Red reach

for the green switch

Top


Level #40
Best time 18.1s

Blue through blue gate
Red through green gate
Blue through 2 blue gates, rotate to the left
Red through red gate
Blue through green gate
Red through red gate
Blue through blue gate
Blue to blue exit
Red to red exit

Top


Level #41
Best time

Blue through red gate
Red through blue gate
Red through green gate
Red through blue gate

Top


Level #42
Best time 19.5s


Go the long way around. Dont over shoot and hit the blue switch.
(Blue through green gate)
Red through red gate
Exit

Top


Level #43
Best time 30.1s

Blue through green gate
Red through red gate || away from the blue exit

Blue back out the green gate
Blue through the blue gate, to the green switch, and the red

switch

Swing right until Red is cut off by the green gate.

Blue drops down the green and blue gates, through the red gate,

to the blue exit.

Quickly Circle right to finish.

Top


Level #44
Best time 46.2

This doesn't take any skill. You just have to know what to do.

Red through red gate. Take it slow from the right.

Red through green gate on blue, Blue drops through blue gate.

Take Red through red, then blue gate.

Careful on green gate. Red should drop almost straight down after

Blue hits the green switch.

If you don't get it muck around with the blue and red gates, then

try again.

Red through the green gate. On the exits, roll forward then back.

Top


Level #45
Best time 43.4s

Land Mark - Blue exit corner

Rs
LW

With any luck Blue is now stuck in the box.

RENE Let him out

Drop Red through the red gate. If you are having trouble getting

red out in front, know that if Blue and Red are on top of each

other, Red always leads.

LW

Blue should be hanging from Red. There isn't much of a trick

here. Swing him in a long arc to hit the blue switch. You may

have to go through the whole cycle a few times.

Top


Level #46
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 37.0s

Blue through 3 red gates
Red through red gate
Red through green gate, clairify how
Red through green gate, clairify how

Top


Level #47
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 58.7s

You will need to repeatedly use a move here. The move is to let

the sola barely tip over the corner and spin fast to catch him on

the edge.

Red through green gate
Blue through red gate
Blue through green gate
Red thourgh blue gate,
now keep turning right til red is on the exit

Top


Level #48
Land Mark - Blue Exit Corner
Best time 69.7s

Blue through blue gate
Blue through blue and red gates until he gets to red switch near

red exit
Red through red gate
Blue through green gate
Red through green gate, The key is to drop red fast
Blue through blue gate
Red through red gate
Blue through green gate
Blue through blue gate, key turn one full circle to the left
Blue through green gate
Red through red gate


Top

Consumer education statements

I know not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, so I got a quick snack from a drive-thru. Taped to the mic was a notice about the tomato salmonella scare. I then went to the grocery store and saw another statement taped to the shelf about world rice prices. I can't remember the last time I saw one of these consumer education statements, let alone two in one day. I can't help but wonder what it means.

What it says is certainly about the management of these businesses. They were either expecting questions or concerns. If we were to assume they were right to expect such things, then it says something about the customer as well. Perhaps the customer has changed. Perhaps the customer is now more accustomed to having things as he expects them, and needs to be educated out of it when shocks happen. Or perhaps the market is more volatile and the customer need to be educated about it. That sounds right to me.

The world food market is becoming more integrated. When everything connects shocks have effects with larger breadth and depth. I'm foreseeing a world where I get ever less news from my television and ever more news from my super market.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Susan Blackmore's memes and "temes"

There are wonderful ideas in this presentation but I have a problem with her equation. As she presented it (14:30):

N=n*f(r1)*f(r2)*f(r3)*L.
N => number of communicative civilizations;
n=> number of planets;
f(r1)=> fraction of planets with r1;
f(r2)=> fraction of planets with r2;
f(r3)=> fraction of planets with r3;
L=> the fraction of a planet's life for which R3 survives


As it should read:

N=n*f(r1)*f(r2)*f(r3)*L.
N=> number of communicative civilizations;
n=> number of planets;
f(r1)=> fraction of planets with r1;
f(r2)=> fraction of planets with r1 that develop r2;
f(r3)=> fraction of planets with r2 that develop r3;
L=> the fraction of a planet's life for which R3 survives


But even this has issues. The equation suggests that R3 must develop before the planet is communicative. She suggests that we are on the cusp of develping R3 which would then suggest we are merely on the cusp of becoming communicative.

This presentation is also the best defense for conservatism I have ever heard.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wikia Search - the wiki search engine

Oh the possibilities. Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia fame, looks to compete with Google and Yahoo by applying his expertise in wiki to internet search. The stated aim is to acquire 5% of the search market. Regardless of the outcome this is a fundamentally new approach to search that would have to be tried once. If it is successful I'm sure transparent search will find its way into fascinating places.

Wikia Search Homepage
Wikia Search Firefox search bar plugin
Wikipedia on Wikia Search

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

International Criminal Court arrests first politician

Human Rights Watch story: ICC: Congo’s Former Vice-President Arrested

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo was arrested on May 24 by Belgian police acting on an ICC arrest warrant. Bemba is the former Vice-President of the Congo and currently the leader of Congo's leading opposition party, Mouvement du Libération du Congo (MLC). In his role as leader of the MLC the ICC alleges he is responsible for war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

This arrest marks the first time a high ranking government official has been arrested by the ICC. This is a giant, but by itself insufficient, step in the advancement of the rule of law.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Is climate change designed to manufacture global consent?

Abandoned Stuff story: Climate Change = Loss of Liberty

The following is an excerpt of the comments from that story.
Please note I am unaffiliated with respect to climate change. I wish merely to engage in a healthy dialog about the issue.

JimBobby:

Whooee! Interesting stuff, suspect as it is. Any crisis can be used by authoritarians and dictators to curtail rights. Even a trumped up terrorist threat can create an atmosphere where basic human rights like habeas corpus and free speech are denied. I don’t doubt that power freaks could capitalize on the climate crisis and usurp extraordinary powers.

So far, however, we’re seeing very little sign of that. The most authoritarian among us have been the same ones who pooh-pooh the climate as a serious issue. The most authoritarian regime in US history has done all it can to erase the words “global warming” and climate change” from the public lexicon.

Those who have been sounding the alarm on climate change are not your typical authoritarians. Despite paranoid delusions of some Luddites, no one was out taking names of the power hogs who turned on every light for Earth Hour. No eco-wacko-treehuger gestapo has materialized to stomp on the rights of energy wasters and AGW deniers.

Commonsense and anecdotal observation tells the sentient among us that we have a problem with climate. That problem is backed up by the vast majority of international scientists. A wide majority of Canadians, North Americans and Europeans accept the fact that there is a crisis developing. Yet, we are not seeing any evidence that concern for the future existence of the planet or of the human race has triggered any jack-booted responses.

Good work on exposing the background of this alarmist, Sasky.

JB

Ashley Johnston:

Very nice observations. I will try to deal with them as best I can.

“doubt that power freaks could capitalize on the climate crisis and usurp extraordinary powers”
A. Jones suggests that the ‘carbon tax’ is part of just such a plan.

“The most authoritarian among us have been the same ones who pooh-pooh the climate as a serious issue.”
Most authoritarians support initiatives that (seemingly) help themselves, rather than the authorities. And there are multiple authorities, government, corporate, financial, pushing different initiatives.

“Those who have been sounding the alarm on climate change are not your typical authoritarians.”
These are the ‘do gooders’ in Friedman’s ‘unholy alliance’.(See video link.) In the words of Bush’s favourite philosopher, ‘They know not what they do.’
http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-8415234479872701693#2m32s

“[Global warming] is backed up by the vast majority of international scientists.”
That is not the way science is supposed to work. The beauty of science is that it doesn’t depend authority. I am supposed to be convinced by the validity of the experiment. I don’t know anything about these experiments that predict climate change, other than they run on supercomputers that I will never have access to.

We are back to Democritus saying that matter is discontinuous because his mind works better than those who say otherwise. Only now it is about how many megaflops your computer can churn out. Whoever has the best computer gets to dictate the global consciousness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Minority Governments

Angus Reid Story: Tories Lead by Seven, Bloc Gains in Canada

I remember somebody once telling me that a minority government was a once in a generation occurrence. Perhaps at one time it was. Perhaps we should start getting used to it. They very well might be the product of electronic information, and that isn't going anywhere.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Election of the School Trustees

It's that time again... the election of the school trustees. For all who are not tuned in the to Elections PEI RSS feed, there will be an election on May 26, 2008.

You can find your school district zone and polling station here, and you can go here to find out more about serving as a school trustee. After all, education is everybody's business.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Would losing the White House be enough?

Philly.com Story: Obama would ask his AG to "immediately review" potential of crimes in Bush White House
April 14, 2008

With an approval rating that is hovering around the high twenties, Bush has few allies left in the American public. Only 34% of Americans support torture in interrogations, and what might be even more surprising is that there is an even smaller contingent, only 16%, that believes the 9/11 Commission Report version of the attacks.

While it is certain the Bush Administration will leave the White House with reputations in shambles a question remains: Is it enough to keep another administration from doing the same? Huge amounts of money changed hands, kings were made, and others taken down. These initiatives may be enough to justify to elite insiders that the administration was a success, despite the reputations, popularity polls or the state of the union. If there are those that know the details and consider the Bush Presidency a success on these terms such a presidency will happen again.

In an interview with Will Bunch, Barack Obama suggested a Bush impeachment would be an unlikely course of action but a criminal investigation could be a viable option. However, Obama says,
"I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve."
I ask, is it worth healing the country's economy, international reputation and national psyche when they are still vulnerable to being sacrificed for the agendas of future presidents? I agree there are many fires burning that demand attention, but what is the point of fighting fires while the gas is still flowing.


The prosecution of a president is an unfortunately partisan issue. If Obama can take the White House and get the nation healed in his first term, a prosecution may be a good project for a second.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wage subsidies, finally!

CBC Story: Wage subsidies announced for rural P.E.I. jobs

As I wrote in a previous post I supported the Ghiz government in his decision to discontinue the propping up of agriculture. Now the Ghiz government says he has a plan for those workers. He is going to help create jobs for them with wage subsidies in rural areas. Programs like this are making me more and more a fan of the Ghiz government.

What I really like about this program is that it can lead to so much more. As I have written elsewhere I have issues with minimum wage. I tend to think the solution is in wage subsidies rather than minimum wage. An obvious question is 'How does the government pay for it?' If companies are paying less in wages then they can pay more in taxes. There will, however, be companies with highly paid employees that will save nothing in wages but pay more in taxes. This is true and that is the trade off. But it is a trade off that is long over due.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Magic of RSS

I don't surf the web much these days. I have somebody do it for me. And not so much somebody, but I let RSS surf the web for me. I have little pieces of the web that tell me when something I want has just been published.

This includes new stories, my friends' blogs, specific Facebook updates, job postings, video presentations, documentaries, magazine articles, even updates of the progress of legislation through the Canadian Parliament.

Here is a 4 minute video that shows you how:



Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wubi shows vision for Linux, but documentation is still lacking


I've been looking to make a meaningful leap to Linux for quite a while now. It wasn't far into the oughts that I tried my first Linux installation. I traded my keyboard to get a friend to setup the networking on it. Well versed in most things Linux he still had to do a fair bit of trial and error to get things going.

Now enter Wubi 7 years later. The good news is that the installation is now a breeze. It is quite simply idiot proof. If you can install a program, you can get Wubi to work for you. I downloaded an installer and 4 hours later--even with a high speed connection--I had Ubuntu Linux installed on my computer right beside Windows.

Please be warned there are stories of the Wubi installer corrupting Windows installations. So be sure to back up before you use it.

Now a word about my computing habits. I spend about 90% of my computer time on Firefox. There is some other reading, media use and troubleshooting. So all I really want to have a good go with Linux is reliable networking. And I didn't get it.

First off, when I first booted to Linux my wifi card didn't have a driver. I have been around computers for a while and don't mind getting my hands dirty. I can harness the power of a command line and pour through forums looking for solutions to my issues.

I tried a few strategies to get my network connected and everyone of them threw an error before completion. There is documentation out there for Ubuntu Linux, and even some for Wubi, but not enough to make it worthwhile installing without your own personal Linux guru.

The installation is now super simple but you will likely not get much beyond that unless you are that super savvy tech guy. And if you are that guy then the installation probably didn't give you much trouble anyhow.

Wubi is a step in the right direction. It shows a vision to make Linux accessible to the Windows user, but there is a ways to go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Farmers and Politicians

or Why not helping is helping

CBC Story: Farm crisis message 'not getting through:' NDP

I had a friend who was getting close to a new level of desperation with her finances. In her rental agreement she was responsible for the oil but not the electricity. So she turned off the furnace and bought an electric space heater.

Of course heating the apartment this way cost MUCH more than by oil, but that wasn't her problem. She paid for the oil not the electricity. She saved money.

A moral hazard has to do with who bares the consequences. The person who causes the problem is not the person who has to solve it.

This is now the matter as PEI farmers look for another bailout. The NDP is asking the government to guarantee loans to farmers. What is the effect of such a system? Where is the incentive for a farmer to produce? There is no incentive to produce, only to look like you are trying to produce. This is the moral hazard: farmers are not responsible for their low productivity.

Granted it isn't the farmer's fault that a government policy removed incentives to produce. But nor is it the government's responsibility to maintain it. Making the farmers responsible for their own production again cannot be anything but a painful process.

Ideally there could have been a middle ground struck, perhaps guaranteeing 50% of the loans, with eventual progress toward no guarantee. That could have made the transition slightly less jarring if there were no impediments to a middle ground.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Proactivity and 'the commitment to progress' trap

As a buzz word proactivity has been around for quite some time. It is right up there with synergy. While I am not a fan of buzz words I am a fan of giving strict
definitions to common words to make them more useful. I am finding that a good definition for proactivity is "engaging in a 'worse-before-better' campaign." As before 'campaign' is a collection of actions. "Worse-before-better," as it suggest, means going through a bad time to get to a good time, closely related to 'sacrifice'.

Now if you try to characterize 'commitment to progress' in similar terms it comes to mean an adherence to 'better-before-better'. This is to say that things must always go in the right direction.

Both of these probably seem like pretty good principles, so which one are you going to choose? And you do have to choose one (at least at any one time). As you may have noticed a commitment to progress precludes all proactivity. Or to put it another way proactivity violates a commitment to progress.

But it isn't always stated explicitly. Commitment to progress can be the result of an unwillingness to engage real issues, an unwillingness to deal with issues (worse) to realize new opportunities (better).

A commitment to progress is a policy that leads to, at best, a diminishing returns plateau. As you become unwilling to take steps back the options available become less and less progressive. There is talk of perfection, doing things right and mistakes. The result is a focus on routine and crisis management. In the worst case the crises are not managed and the organization stumbles.

A focus on proactivity is different. There is talk of opportunities, doing right things and vision. The result is a focus on leadership, innovation and education. This is the kind of environment I like. Not so stable but more predictable in its own way. It provides room for unlimited growth, though miscalculations can be painful if not enlightening.



There ought to be a word in here about metrics. It is impossible to talk of worse before better, or even better before better without having some idea of what worse and better are. While many philosophies of life and management differentiate themselves on what these metrics are, money, love, environment etc, the same rules for proactivity and progress still apply. Markets correct leaving a foundation for a stronger economy;incompatible lovers leave to let us look for a better partner; fires burn and make room for more vibrant forests.

Regardless of our measure if we are not willing to embrace worse before better we limit opportunities in all areas of our world.

Friday, April 25, 2008

SCC were off on drug sniffing issue

CBC Story: Random use of police sniffer dogs breaches Charter: top court

The Supreme Court of Canada now says that random searches with drug sniffing dogs are unconstitutional. Such searches violate protections against unreasonable searches and seizures says the SCC.

Opposition to the decision says that sniffing cannot be considered an unreasonable search since it is not a search at all. The scents are in public space, much like your garbage once on the side of the road.

The SCC says that because of the quality of the information gained from sniffing it is equal to a search and must therefor pass a test of reasonableness.

What seems not to have been taken into consideration is what unreasonable search is supposed to protect. Civil liberties are to protect privacy. It is to protect the right to engage in unpopular practices that are not illegal. Unreasonable searches may bring to light information about such practices, but a drug sniffing dog may not.

Drug sniffing dogs are not a civil liberties issue because they do not suppress unusual, unconventional or unpopular practices. They are targeted to illegal activity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Definition of Commitment

The idea of a commitment has been something that I have come back to consistently for a while now. Understanding the nature of commitment seems important as it plays a strong role in organizing the world around me. In my thoughts about commitment I have come up with a definition that I find useful:

A choice is committal inverse to the degree that a simple campaign can return you to similar choices


Simple and similar don't need tight definitions, but merely a sense of what is more or less similar or simple. I will leave that up to intuition. And a campaign is a collection of choices or actions.

To restate my definition, you are making a bigger commitment the harder it will be to get back to where you are.

Is taking one step forward a commitment? To figure that out we would need to know something about the environment. Will that step take you on a 40-story free fall? If so it is a commitment, if only because you will have to climb 40 stories to choose not to take that step again.

Are the choices you face when you take that step forward similar to the choices you face before you step? If so then the campaign that gets you to similar choices has a length of zero. That is pretty simple.

This may also help to explain why visualization can be so important. If you can see yourself having made the step, having no desire to go back to the choices that are now less accessible, then physically making the step is of little consequence. Yes, those options are less accessible, but they were of little value to you anyhow.

Consider a job offer. You would have to quit your job. That sounds like quite a commitment, but if you can visualize the new job with no desire to return to the old one, the real action of leaving the job becomes trivial and can be made confidently.

Through visualization a big commitment has been reduced to a trivial formality.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why cutting diesel tax is a bad idea

There is a CBC story that says groups are putting pressure on government to reduce diesel tax.

This is a bad idea. For the businesses involved it may provide some temporary relief, but we would be fooling ourselves to think it was anything more.

Oil is getting more expensive. Petroleum products are getting more expensive. Diesel is getting more expensive. If you think it is bad now wait six months.

A tax cut will never be enough. We regulate diesel prices on PEI, we could force a lower price, but that would be an even worse idea.

If we can't get off diesel then, as the story suggests, we should charge more for petroleum intensive products. Either way this will not be the last call for a tax cut and it should not be the last time the government says 'No' to a tax cut.

The golden rule for 'polluter pays' taxing is if you want them to buy more the tax is too high, if you want them to buy less the tax is too low. Right now we collect 20 cents per litre [History of PEI petrol tax]. I wouldn't want to have to make the case that at 20 cents per litre Islanders want to sell more diesel.

On a side note, does anybody know why the tax is linked to volume rather than price? The tax is 20 cents/L as opposed to 20 cents/dollar. In this way they are already getting a tax break as the price goes up.

At a dollar a litre they would be paying 20% tax.
At two dollars a liter they would be paying 10% tax.
Right now the price (before the tax) is $1.17, so the tax rate is 20/117= 17%.
So as a linked to price, as the gst, pst and property tax are, they are already paying less tax than they were before.

I would think that a good step in dealing with the petrol issue would be linking the tax to price. And let those that consume diesel intensive products pay for the diesel, not the tax payers.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Southern Ocean?

The International Hydrographic Organization now recognizes a Southern Ocean.

Is anything I learned in school still good?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Democracy and Literacy

Howard Rheingold: Way-new collaboration
video

He suggests a link between literacy and democracy. I'm trying to get a grasp on it and can't seem to. That is I can't find a good reason for believing it to be true other than because he said so. Nor can I find any good opposing reasons.

I will take his word for it that literacy climbed after the printing press was invented.

And I will take it for granted that there was a lot of advancement after literacy en mass.

I think it is worth noting that the first democracy happened long before the printing press. There were also great leaps forward in earlier periods like the renaissance. But to his credit, like Rheingold says, I'm sure symbolic communication would have had some role in making the first societies. It does then make sense that a leap in symbolic communication would lead to new societal frameworks.

I will give it some more thought when I get to it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Essence of Commitment

I think I finally got it. I have been rolling the word around in my head for quite some time. Over a year now.

It sounds counter intuitive, but I've found the essence of commitment to beinsensitivity. When you are more committed to something there is less that will change the situation. That is to say you are now less sensitive to the things that would have changed your situation before.

I know we are supposed to get this warm idea when we think of commitment but I'm most of us know the ugly side too. The ugly side is that commitments make us insensitive, or perhaps better put insensitivities make us committed.

I like to put commitment in to real terms, rather than idealistic terms, which is why I try to think of the insensitivity causing commitment. You can try to shape your sensitivities so as to create a certain kind of commitment, but that commitment is not realized until the sensitivities have been changed, muted.

In this sense commitment is not merely a choice, or no more than putting on your pants. It requires action. But also commitment does not necessarily require a choice. Through happenstance your (in)sensitivities may commit you one way or another without volition, just as you may find yourself wearing pants without your choosing.

We don't usually think of engineering commitments. Or at least not our own. But it is certainly a possibility. I suppose we usually put more emphasis on engineering our sensitivities, even if we don't call it that. In this frame we would be more likely to call them 'interests'. The reason we typically don't talk about engineering our own commitments is the same reason we don't encourage insensitivities... insensitivities create missed opportunities. Commitment is about not investigating or pursuing certain classes of opportunities. This is counter to our interests. Though it is certainly in my interest to have people believe I am no longer pursuing certain classes of opportunities.

Once others believe I am not pursuing such opportunities like, alternatives to a partner, my partner is more likely to stop pursuing alternatives to me. When this happens I will be more comfortable with a break in partnership than will the partner, so my partner will make larger compromises to maintain the partnership. This is profitable though results in often highly asymmetrical relationships.

It takes resources to maintain sensitivities. That is why it is often so tempting to commit. Committing frees up the resources that were being used to look for alternatives.

Mutual commitment allows both parties to free resources they would otherwise have been using to look for alternatives, yet the balance of compromise is maintained as when they both had full knowledge of alternatives.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Solving 'Odd Ball'

The riddle goes as follows:


You have 12 balls and a 2 arm balance. With 3 trials on the 2 arm balance you are to tell which one is different of the 12, and how it is different, heavier or lighter, than the others.


Observation 1: There are 24 possible initial conditions, 12 balls x 2 states (heavier or lighter). These will be called 1L through to 12H

Observation 2: For a solution to work in every case each of the 24 initial conditions must have a different outcome of the 3 trials. One possible outcome, for example, could be on trial one the balance tips right, on trial 2 it tips left, and on trial 3 it doesn't tip, encoded as |> < =|. These outcomes will be called 'signatures'.

Observation 3: Each of the 3 trials will contribute one of 3 symbols to the signature. So there are 3x3x3 = 33 = 27 total signatures.

Observation 4: For any given ball, the signatures for it being Light and Heavy must be opposites. Signatures are opposites if all < are changed to > and all > are changed to <. |< > =| is the opposite of |> < =|.

Observation 5: All opposing signatures must be distinct. If 1L had the signature of |= = =| then 1H would have the opposite signature, |= = =|. Therefore |= = =| is an invalid signature. It is the only one of the 27 signatures that does not have a < or a >, so there are 26 remaining valid signatures. (|= = =| would suggest the balance never tipped. This would correspond to if the Odd Ball never went on the balance. And if it was never on the balance you could never know if it was Heavy or Light, so it makes sense to throw this signature away.)


Strategy:
1. What we will do now is assign a signature to each of the 24 initial conditions.
2. We will then have to balance the signatures so that there are an equal amount of balls on each arm for each trial by switching the signatures for Heavy and Light of selected balls.
3. We will then compile the signatures into an algorithm for finding the Odd Ball.

1. Assignment
This is a list of the signatures for Heavy balls. For Sum < is worth 1, = is worth 0, and > is worth -1. A trial is balanced when the sum is 0.
















Balls
Sum
123456789101112
Trials
1
<
<
<
<
<
<
<
<
<
=
=
=
9
2
<
<
<
>
>
>
=
=
=
<
<
=
2
3
<
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
<
1


2. Balance
So here we have to switch the signatures for Heavy and Light and make all the sums equal 0. But this is impossible! Whenever you switch < for > it will change the sum by 2. Since trials 1 and 3 are odd they cannot be balanced.

Remember there are 26 valid signatures. Listed above are 12, and implicitly their opposites, so 24. the signature |= < =| has been left out. We must now substitute this signature for another one. If we are to make all of the Sums even we will have to substitute it for |< < <| or |< < >| or |< > <| or |< > >| . Currently assigned to Balls 1H, 2H, 4H and 5H respectively. Those are all of the signatures (including their opposites) that don't have an equals sign. A quick check agrees there are 23 = 8 = 4x2 signatures with only > and <.

1. Assignment
We will arbitrarily assign |= < =| to Ball 1H and get the following:













Balls
Sum
123456789101112
Trials
1
=
<
<
<
<
<
<
<
<
=
=
=
8
2
<
<
<
>
>
>
=
=
=
<
<
=
2
3
=
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
<
0


2. Balance
Now all of the trials have a sum that is even so we can balance it by switching signatures. Trial 1 has a balance of 8 so you must switch at least 4 signatures. You can balance all sums by switching balls 3, 7, 8 and 9. This gives the following assignments:













Balls
Sum
123456789101112
Trials
1
=
<
>
<
<
<
>
>
>
=
=
=
0
2
<
<
>
>
>
>
=
=
=
<
<
=
0
3
=
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
=
<
>
<
0


3. Compile
We can now use this table to construct our algorithm. We will arbitrarily say that > means the ball is on the left arm and < means it is on the right arm. And we will have the answer!

Trial 1. 3 7 8 9 v. 2 4 5 6
Trial 2. 3 4 5 6 v. 1 2 10 11
Trial 3. 2 5 7 11 v. 4 8 10 12

4. Clean up
Since the numbering is arbitrary we can reassign the numbers so that it goes increasing from the first to show up to the last.

3 -> 1
7 -> 2
8 -> 3
9 -> 4
2 -> 5
4 -> 6
5 -> 7
6 -> 8
1 -> 9
10 -> 10
11 -> 11
12 -> 12

This gives us a more pleasant solution:

Trial 1. 1 2 3 4 v. 5 6 7 8
Trial 2. 1 6 7 8 v. 5 9 10 11
Trial 3. 2 5 7 11 v. 3 6 10 12


Analysis.
The final solution is always the same if you do follow this strategy. All of the arbitrary decisions cancel each other out and settle on what we have produced above.
I find it interesting to note that nowhere along the way did we assume there would be 4 Balls per arm per trial. This effectively proves that it must be done this way.

Step it up.
If you have 5 trials how many balls can you have and still discover the Odd Ball and its state?

Answer:
You will have 35 = 243 total signatures. Minus the |= = =| signature, 243 -1 = 242. One signature for each of the 2 states per ball, 242/2 = 121. Round down to the nearest multiple of 3, 120. With 5 trials you can find the Odd Ball among 120.

Generally with N trials you can find the Odd Ball among B balls (N and B are positive integers):

B = (3N-1)/2 (rounded down to the nearest multiple of 3)

When rounding the Remainder will always be 1 so:

B = [ (3N-1)/2 ] -1
    = (3N-3)/2

Friday, January 4, 2008

Category Feeds

Typically I try not to do blogs about blogging but I went through quite a bit of work to get my category feeds going and nobody seems to be using them. Most things that I want to write about end up here. That is to say it is far from a specialized blog. I put in some personal stories, I write about some little tech hacks I found or trends in the open source world. I write about stupid riddles and how fascinating they are to me because of what happens when you look at them in certain ways. There is no way any other one person could find even most of this interesting. I get that. Enter categories and category feeds.

Now in that all of my content could not be interesting to any one person, my blog is not special. Most blogs I find have certain domains that I find useful and the rest is written for somebody who is not me. Rather than subscribing to the blog as a whole, I subscribe to the category feed. This is especially important for high volume blog. If you publish daily or more I consider you a high volume blog. Normally I have to do some digging to find the feed I want. Typically, Blogger included, you merely have to click on the category link and type /feed at the end of the url.

But some blogs, namely Wordpress, I still don't know how to get a category feed. And that keeps me from subscribing to a few blogs that I really want to, because I don't want all the other crap I have to take to get the stuff I want.

So if you want to help me out and maybe your readers too, here is how you can get links to your category feeds.

You may want to run your category feeds through feed burner. Here's how to do that.

Then you can put links to your category feeds as explained here.

If everybody did this the world would be a lot more linkable. That and if Blogger automatically attached an anchor name to every <p> tag. That way you could link to any paragraph, like the way you can link to any part of a video on Googlevideo.