Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 3rd, 2011

Arimaa really is interesting

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The computer is stymied by making the growth in possible positions per ply MUCH faster than in chess: first, because each player arranges his pieces as he wants at the start of the game—and in a neat bit of komi, Gold must arrange his pieces first, so Silver gets to see Gold’s arrangement before he (Silver) arranges his own pieces—an advantage—but Gold gets first move—also an advantage; and second, because on each ply (i.e., on each player’s turn), he gets 4 “moves” as we would normally say—moving 1 piece 4 squares, or 4 pieces 1 square, or any combination. So LOTS of possible positions for each ply, above and beyond all the possible opening positions.

The strength of pieces is monotonic—from strongest to weakest: Elephant > Camel > Horse > Dog > Cat > Rabbit. Interestingly, the size of the strength discrepancy between two pieces is (so far as I can tell at this point) immaterial: it’s a simply binary, stronger/weaker relationship, without any consideration of the degree of strength difference.

The move rules are simple: all pieces move exactly the same, which is one square orthogonally in any direction, save that rabbits (the weakest and most numerous piece, played by chess pawns) cannot move backward voluntarily. No diagonal moves, and diagonals (in effect) don’t count.

And no capturing, but the stronger of two pieces can push or pull the other—a notion that I think kids would understand from their own experience.

So it’s an up-close game, but since you can move as many as 4 pieces a turn, I would think it would have a broad strategy. What’s cool in the links below is that you can listen as one of the players goes over a world championship game. I don’t know the combinations he names, as yet, but still it’s possible to follow the general discussion, and I find it fascinating.

The instructional videos are succinct and informative. This whole list is from one page of the incredibly resource rich Arimaa site.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

Ersatz Mamma Chia

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I really like the Mamma Chia drinks. I asked The Wife to pick me up a couple of the Cranberry Lemonade today: one I polished off when it arrived, the other as an after-dinner snack. Man! are they tasty!

I was sitting here, wanting another, when it hit me that I could easily make my own. I snagged the empty bottle and poured into it:

1/4 c chia seed
juice of 1 lime (and next time, I’ll use a Meyer lemon)
1/3 c pomegranate juice
fill the jar with white tea

It’s sitting in the fridge now, cooling while the chia seed soak. What a great drink!

UPDATE: Homemade is reasonably good, though not so good as Mamma Chia’s own. The chia seed tend to clump as they soak, so to avoid having to break apart the clumps with an iced-tea spoon as I did, I think next time I’ll just have seeds in to soak separately, in a container, and I can dip up some of the already soaked seeds to add to the drink.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes


with 5 comments

I had mochi for the first time today. I got this sampler, and today cooked one 110-calorie square as the starch for lunch (which otherwise was a green salad with tuna). The Wife is an old mochi hand, and when I started describing what I was going to order, she said, “Sounds like mochi” (and I hadn’t given the name since I assumed it would mean nothing to her as it did to me—wrongo). So today I had one of the sprouted brown rice mochi, heating in a 450ºF oven for 8 minutes—not quite enough. Tomorrow I’ll try heating one in the skillet, with a little butter, which is how The Wife ate it.

I always love to try a new food.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Worcestershire sauce cooking

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It was much easier this time: I knew what to expect, which is to dump everything except the 1/2 c sugar into a pot and bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, melt the sugar and heat until it turns amber, then add to the cooking sauce at the 10-minute mark.

This batch is made with malt vinegar and Barbados molasses, as I mentioned. I also used 5 cloves garlic instead of two, 4 anchovies instead of one, and 3″ of crushed fresh ginger instead of 1 1/2″, and 8 instead of 2 chilis de arbol. I slightly increased amounts of some of the spices as well.

It will now age for 3 weeks. Really is worth doing, I think: easy to make, and extremely tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Domestic terrorists advertising their terrorism

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PZ Myers reports on a disturbing nest of domestic terrorists:

The animal rights loons are ranting again. These people are simply terrorists, as you can see in this quote from their odious website.

Every time a vivisector’s car or home — and, eventually, the abuser him/herself — blows up, flames of liberation light up the sky.

They’re quite proud of taking the unconscionably violent position. And now, just to show how low they can sink, they have announced a new target: our students.

Debuting The Soft-Bellied Target and New Resistance Tactics: Bringing the War to the Student Body

When we attack professors, we can only expect limited gains. They are deeply entrenched in the holocaust, have vested financial interests, and enjoy a network of support and protection. Students, however, have no round-the-clock police protection, no access to the FBI, and no access to legislators. The weakest link in the chain is the student body. Vivisectors-in-training can be shut down with relative ease.

They also are the next generation and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are the last generation. Unless we intercede now, the students of today will be the mutilators of tomorrow. Conversely, there will be no animal torturers tomorrow if we effectively eliminate them today.

How are they going to target these students? With intimidation. They are bragging about one example now, a young woman named Alena who mentioned wanting to follow a research career who they harrassed into at least saying she would abandon her plans (who may be just saying that to shut up the crazies, and who may also be a phony stooge of the haters), and they have a list of ways they are going after our students.

1. By and large, students pursuing careers in research science truly want to help people, not victimize animals. Their indoctrination into the world of laboratory torture is slow, methodical, and deliberate. While they are being groomed, we are obligated to intercede and educate these young scientists with truth. As Alena admitted, “I was naive…I really just did not know about all this stuff.” And she is not unique.

2. Students also need to understand that making the wrong choice will result in a lifetime of grief. Aspiring scientists envision curing cancer at the Mayo Clinic. We need to impart a new vision: car bombs, 24/7 security cameras, embarrassing home demonstrations, threats, injuries, and fear. And, of course, these students need to realize that any personal risk they are willing to assume will also be visited upon their parents, children, and nearest & dearest loved ones. The time to reconsider is now.

3. Like all young adults, college students are acutely concerned with how they are perceived by their peers. They need to maintain a certain persona if they wish to continue to enjoy the acceptance of their community. This makes them infinitely more susceptible to negative and inflammatory publicity than their veteran-mutilator counterparts. When education fails, smear campaigns can be highly effective. Abusers have forfeited all rights to privacy and peace of mind and, if an abuser-to-be should fail to make the correct choice now, NIO is here to broadcast all of their personal information. Remember, young people document every facet of their personal lives online. In about 30 minutes, we were able to compile an impressive and comprehensive profile for Elena.

Notice that among the tactics they advocate are car bombs, injuries, and fear. These are home-grown terrorists, nothing more.

If they think professors are protected, wait until they scratch an innocent student, though — their obscure organization will instantly become a pariah organization, everywhere.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 1:38 pm

Megs, needing brushing

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Little Miss Megs is a bit shaggy. She’s due for a pedicure, so I’m going to ask whether they can brush her. She is extremely cranky about this (and about getting her nails clipped) when I or The Wife try, so it’s necessary to get professional assistance.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

Took a walk

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After reading the article on the capabilities of the septuagenarian knee, I decided that I’ve lost enough weight to chance a walk at my current 186-lb weight: 21 minutes on a beautiful cloudless Spring afternoon. I listened to Don Quixote and felt quite good. I did take the precaution of taking a couple of aspirin on my return.

Lots of flowers in bloom. This one is Pride of Madeira, which seems to be popular here, probably because it’s attractive and drought-tolerant:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Hugh Laurie talks about his upcoming blues album

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Interesting post by Matt Marshall at American Blues Scene:

Straight from the mouth of Hugh Laurie, on his many deeply blues influences and his new album:

I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this now. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there’s no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.

If that weren’t bad enough, I’m also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who hasn’t bought a loaf of bread in a decade and can’t find his way through an airport without a babysitter. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’ve got some Chinese characters tattooed on my arse. Or elbow. Same thing.

Worst of all, I’ve broken a cardinal rule of art, music, and career paths: actors are supposed to act, and musicians are supposed to music. That’s how it works. You don’t buy fish from a dentist, or ask a plumber for financial advice, so why listen to an actor’s music?

The answer is – there is no answer. If you care about provenance and genealogy, then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size.

I started piano lessons at the age of 6 with Mrs Hare. She was a nice woman, probably; but in my twisted childhood memory I have cast her as a warty thug who bullied me across the hot coals of do-re-mi. I stuck it for about three months, grinding through Elementary Piano Book One until we reached Swanee River by Stephen Foster. (Foster, as it happens, was also a trespasser. Born in Pennsylvania, he never saw the actual Suwannee River – nor did he set foot in Florida, which adopted the song as its state anthem in 1935. I’m just saying.)

Now you could hardly call Swanee River a blues song – in one of its earliest editions, the score was sold as “An Ethiopian Melody” – but it’s a lot closer than the French lullabys and comical Polish dances that made up the rest of that hellish book.

The day arrived, and Mrs Hare turned the page: “Swanee River”, she read, peering through the pince-nez that I have imagined for her, 45 years later. And then, with a curl of her hairy lip, she read the subtitle: “ ‘Negro Spiritual – Slightly Syncopated.’ Oh dear me no.….”. With that, she flicked the page to Le Tigre Et L’Elephant, or some other unholy nightmare, and my relationship with formal music instruction ended.

And then one day a song came on the radio – I’m pretty sure it was “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Willie Dixon – and my whole life changed. A wormhole opened between the minor and major third, and I stepped through into Wonderland. Since then, the blues have made me laugh, weep, dance… well, this is a family record, and I can’t tell you all the things the blues can make me do.

At the centre of this magical new kingdom, high on a hill (which shows you how little I knew back then), stood the golden city of New Orleans. In my imagination, it just straight hummed with music, romance, joy, despair; its rhythms got into my gawky English frame and, at times, made me so happy, and sad, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. New Orleans was my Jerusalem. (The question of why a soft-handed English schoolboy should be touched by music born of slavery and oppression in another city, on another continent, in another century, is for a thousand others to answer before me: from Korner to Clapton, the Rolling Stones to the Joolsing Hollands. Let’s just say it happens.)

Over the next decade, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 11:37 am

Posted in Jazz, Music

Any Arimaa players among my readers?

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I just learned about the game Arimaa. It is played on a chessboard with chess pieces, but the names, moves, and goals are different: totally different game.

It was created to frustrate computer scientists who write game-playing software—which is now good enough to defeat world champions in chess, checkers, and backgammon. Checkers, in fact, has now been solved. (With best play, it’s a draw.) So writing a game that is not so amenable to computer play is an interesting challenge.

From the Wikipedia article at the link:

Arimaa was invented by Omar Syed, an Indian American computer engineer trained in artificial intelligence. Syed was inspired by Garry Kasparov’s defeat at the hands of the chess computer Deep Blue to design a new game which could be played with a standard chess set, would be difficult for computers to play well, but would have rules simple enough for his four-year-old son Aamir to understand. (“Arimaa” is “Aamir” spelled backwards plus an initial “a”). In 2002 Syed published the rules to Arimaa and announced a $10,000 prize, available annually until 2020, for the first computer program (running on standard, off-the-shelf hardware) able to defeat each of three top-ranked human players in a three game series.[1]

Here’s an intro video from the Arimaa home site:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Games

Walking again—tentatively

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This article makes me think I should set out walking once more—and Spring is definitely here. I wonder about these shoes. I do have flat feet, however, and wear orthotics. OTOH, maybe those shoes would strengthen and raise the arch of my foot by exercising my foot muscles more.

From the article:

Lane did some of the very first studies of runners and knees while she was a resident at Stanford University.

“We wanted to answer the important question of whether, if you continued to run into your 50s and 60s and even 70s, you also ran the risk of damaging the knees,” she says. The answer, she says: absolutely not. And there was an extra bonus: While enthusiasm for jogging seemed to diminish as people hit their mid-60s, Lane says they were still more inclined than the non-joggers to get out and exercise.

“They were active doing other activities, like walking, yoga, water aerobics,” she says. “We found that as these people aged, not only did they feel better about themselves, but their quality of life was better and they tended to actually live longer” than the non-joggers.

So, the message for joggers like the Riders, who hope to be jogging all their lives, is a hearty two thumbs up.

Lane cautions that if you have suffered a knee injury, especially one that required surgery, running can actually increase your risk of knee arthritis. So can routinely running really fast — at a five- or six-minute-mile pace — or running in a marathon. Lane’s best advice? Running in moderation, at an eight- to 10-minute mile pace, for about 40 minutes a day.But if people are more than 20 pounds overweight, Lane says they shouldn’t start off with an intense running regimen.

“I have them walk and walk until they’re to a point where I think their body mass is reduced enough that it won’t traumatize their joints,” she says. Otherwise, significantly overweight joggers run the risk of that extra weight stressing the knee to the point of inflammation, the formation of bony spurs and accelerated cartilage loss.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Bodywork advice from newbie to newbie

with 4 comments

I have learned some things about bodywork in my Pilates training. Most of these insights are from The Wife, who has experience with a variety of bodywork therapies: yoga, Rolfing, Feldenkreis, and now Pilates.

This came up when I was talking to someone about their very first Pilates session, and she was telling me how difficult it was to keep so many things in mind and still try to move: position of feet, position of hands (palms out), breathing, spine, etc., etc.—so many things that the instructor was constantly correcting her.

I found myself laughing because that was exactly my experience, which I’d forgotten. Because, of course, you gradually learn the stance and the breathing and so constant correction is no longer needed. But her description brought back all my early confusion and frustration, so I passed along some few things I had learned about how to address the process.

First is the incredible sense of frustration one feels when the brain’s instructions to the body seem to go completely awry or be ignored. You’re trying to do as requested, but your body doesn’t seem to be getting the message. The frustration can really spike at those times, because the frustration is not erupting from your conscious mind but from high in the unconscious—close to consciousness, and close to berserk with its inability to deliver the body movements the consciousness is requesting.

This feeling apparently is common in bodywork, and The Wife’s advice was to stop trying to do whatever it is and take a couple of deep, slow breaths, relaxing and centering, and then try again, calmly. She said that bodywork instructors know about this phenomenon and will understand what I’m doing. Apparently, that’s how bodywork is in fact done, with the pauses to regroup when trying new things.

Moreover, the breathing, as I’ve come to realize, is really central not only to the Pilates work but movement in general. Lots of emphasis on deep, regular breathing in Pilates, and coordinating inhalations and exhalations with movement. It seemed finicky at first, but I’ve come to recognize that proper breathing delivers a lot of power and balance to movements. And yesterday, on our outing to Santa Cruz, The Wife commented that the funny little bursts of breath I would make while thinking or just sitting—those were not happening anymore. I imagine that they were the result of shallow breathing using only the top of the lungs, and now that I am breathing better (more deeply), the airbusts have stopped.

So: pause when frustrated or confused, take a couple of breaths, focusing on the the breathing, and then resume.

Once I started doing that, I found my progress picked up and I learned new things faster.

Another point: Bodywork instructors tend to use phrases that are either metaphorical or that describe things I can’t yet feel: “Push your knees with your sides,” for example. I feel no such connection (though after reading in Anatomy Trains (link is to the Cool Tools review) and watching a couple of videos (this one and this one), I’m willing to believe that there is a connection). So how does one respond?

The Wife said that what she does when she gets one of those “push-your-knees-with-your-sides” sort of instructions is that she pictures the image in her mind as she does the movement. Generally, when she does that, the instructor says, “Good,” and offers no more correction. The mental picture apparently helps the body get the idea.

Bodywork instructors seem to have a quiver full of such metaphorical instructions, which can be frustrating to the literal-minded. But picturing the image as you do the movement seems to really work.

Moreover, you gradually know what to do with your body when you get one of those instructions: it’s almost Pavlovian in that the instructor says to do something, and though you don’t know what the words mean, you know exactly what to do when those words are said. And, of course, over time and with practice you start to get the idea of the movement and “understand” it with your body (not necessarily with your mind).

UPDATE: Today (28 Oct 2011) I suddenly flashed on an image that seems to be helpful. Imagine that you’re carrying a bowling ball around sitting inside you on your pelvis.

What this image did was to focus my attention on the pelvis as my center of balance, with my torso (and spine) stacked above it, instead of my usual image, that my lower body is suspended and hanging from my head, throat, and shoulders. I have a tendency to try to move my body with my head as the center of effort rather than the pelvis. The image helps with that.

I’m still very much a beginner, so you should check out this idea with your Pilates instructor. But it seems to help me.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2011 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

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