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Aug. 24th, 2016 @ 01:53 pm Pokemon scanner maths puzzle
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As best as I can tell, the pokemon go scanner reports whether a pokemon is within 200m or not. It updates about every 15s (?) When a pokemon is within about 50m (?) it appears.

My current strategy is, when I see a pokemon appear, continue in the same direction, assuming it's more likely I've walked into its radius than that it just spawned, and that it's more likely I've entered its radius closer to head on that obliquely. Mathmos, does that sound true?

If I walk about 200m and it isn't there, I try to curve round sideways. If it disappears again, I backtrack, and knowing two points approx 200m away from it, head for one of the points of those triangles.

But I'm wondering, would it be better that when I see it appear, I immediately turn sideways in the hope of finding two nearby points on the edge of its radius, and then extrapolate a point perpendicular to a line between them? That's harder, because it means I deliberately walk away from it. But maybe it would be quicker to narrow down where it is?

If there weren't a noisy gps and periodic updates, and those numbers were all precise, what would be the best strategy? It reminds me a little of Dr Leader's "you are trapped in a gladiatorial arena with someone who runs at exactly the same speed as you" puzzles, but hopefully simpler :)

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Aug. 24th, 2016 @ 11:28 am Pokemon Go vs Ingress
What I like about Ingress

You can make plans and follow them. You can say, "I have ten minutes, let me see if I can grab keys for these four many portals" or "Can I fill this hole in fielding". In pokemon, you can't really set out to *do* something most of the time.

There's a big incentive to visit different and out-of-the-way portals which is really interesting. Getting keys for them, or linking to them, mean the portals are *different*, not just "go to whichever ones are closest".

You can look up where's an interesting place to go to.

What I like about Pokemon Go

Filling the pokedex and collecting high-level pokemon gives you a form of progress which you can always increase. In Ingress, the only form of permanent progress was levelling-up, which was fun at low levels, but it was about conquering territory which was always transitory.

There's three teams, not two. I don't know why, but that seems to make it a lot more fun, both in how gyms change hands, and in meeting people.

The flavour is really nice, I love seeing different pokemon.

When you get to higher levels, there's not quite such a cliff of "now it's too hard to level up, and there's nothing else to do, there's no point".

Problems I'm starting to have with Pokemon

I've had a *lot* of fun with it. But I am starting to find some problems.

The new scanner sort-of works. It at least tells you what's within 200m. But it seems like that's not *totally* reliable. And it doesn't seem to tell you pokemon in order. But that means, I never have the satisfaction of tracking a pokemon methodically. It's either "walk along the river" or "rush backwards to establish the edge of the circle, then dash in one direction, and either frantically search around 200m from the first point, or reach another edge and triangulate". It's not a *fun* process, it's aggravating.

You don't play only at pokestops.

I mean, it's realistic that you don't get good intermediate indications of progress, you just have to try your best and then wait for success. But getting positive feedback is one of the things that makes games fun!

Now I have most of the pokemon which often spawn nearby, there's a lot less point going for a little walk and capturing some. I used to take a little wander, catch a few, come home. Now it's "go and see if there's a rare one, there isn't". Or, waste a bunch of pokeballs catching pidgeys I don't really need.

And it's hard to *work towards* filling my pokedex. ETA: Either someone tells you where a rare pokemon spawns, or you just wander around and hope. Either way, you get a random success for no reason, followed by a long period of failure.

So I may stop. But I wish it would become possible to start over, while being able to switch back to my original account occasionally. Like, in Ingress, having multiple accounts even if it took time to switch was a big advantage, because you could put multiple high-level resonators on a portal. But in pokemon, it seems like it wouldn't make that much difference. I'm sure I *can* start another account, but it would be nice if it was officially supported, "yes, that's what you're supposed to do, we won't ban you". Maybe with a built-in delay for switching or something.

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Aug. 23rd, 2016 @ 12:39 pm Ghostbusters!
Minor spoilersCollapse )

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Aug. 20th, 2016 @ 08:44 pm Address labels
I am trying to make cards for a putative board game. Just printed on normal paper is fine for this level of testing.

I have a spreadsheet with a list of card titles and card text. Ideally I would print A4 pages each of which has four cards. Each card would have the title in a larger font and the text in a smaller font. There would be a little spacing, so if the cutting isn't perfect I don't lose any text. I may be getting over-perfectionist here, but ideally the spacing would not need to be in addition to the page margins, I just want a white border, it doesn't need to be printed.

I have libre office. That's supposed to be reasonably good, right? But the mail-merge features seem byzantine. Am I just too tired? Microsoft office was always overly-hlepy, but functional, for this sort of thing. Or is there any command-line based solution which is better?

I feel like it's at the "shouldn't be that hard" stage. I know I CAN figure out how to do it in libre office, but I want to know if something else is likely to be easier[1].

[1] One of my pet hates is that when you're pretty sure you can't do something a different way, people jump all over you saying "no, don't do it like that", and you have to rehash all the trade-offs you've already made before they're willing to believe you actually had a reason for doing it that way. But if you're NOT sure what the best way is, and ask, people rush to tell you "the way you've already chosen, the next step isn't that hard, it's X" and yes, thank you, now that takes 2 minutes not 20 minutes, but it hasn't really solved my problem if I want to do that for all twenty steps or not...

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Aug. 20th, 2016 @ 07:51 pm Afternoon in Ely with Mr Mime, books, and friends
I took an afternoon trip to Ely. After a cold morning the weather was fairly cooperative, the riverside garden bits are really pretty.

I tested my new phone mount for my car windscreen on a fairly easy journey, and it seemed to work quite well navigating with google maps navigation mode. It's probably not quite as good as my satnav, except that it has an up-to-date road network, uses an up-to-date touchscreen where it's easy to search for things, and steadily improves over time.

Does anyone know how to temporarily disable all notificaitons on android? When I'm using maps to navigate, I don't want random apps interrupting.

I introduced scribb1e and mavislovesmaths+samholloway to each other, and they introduced me to an awesome bookshop.

And we caught a Mr Mime, and some other pokemon.

And I saw a duck and a pile of yellow ducklings all crossing the road in single file!

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Aug. 14th, 2016 @ 12:33 pm Arguing with premises vs arguing with conclusions
I have conflicting impulses to argue with people's premises vs arguing with the conclusions. If their conclusions seem really wrong, I immediately have an impulse to explain why I think that's wrong (which is sometimes useful, even if often asking for more detail on why they think that is usually more constructive).

Conversely, if I'm less emotionally involved, my instinct is to work forward step-by-step from premises we agree with, completely discounting any conclusions until I can understand every step towards them.

What I'm now realising is that both of those are useful at different times (different to what my instincts tell me). It's futile arguing with conclusions which rest on significantly different premises.

But OTOH, often people hone and refine their argument when their conclusion seems insufficient, in that we may arrive at the same conclusion from different routes, having refined our premises such that they seem different, but might actually fulfil similar purposes from different perspectives.

So it's worth judiciously switching back and forth to check which seems most constructive for a particular subject.

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Aug. 12th, 2016 @ 07:18 pm Shaving
If you shave, what do you use?

Razor? Disposable, or with changeable heads? Or straight razor (ulp)?

With shaving foam, soap, or just water?

In sink, shower or bath?

Electric razor/hair clipper/something else?

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Aug. 12th, 2016 @ 11:16 am Rules for "Factory Floor" (aka "Robot Pig Factory"?)
See gameboard here: https://twitter.com/CartesianDaemon/status/763871871943270400

I keep changing the name of the game. But you're manufacturing something (toys? robots?). You get a toy/pig/pallet at the left side of the board, and need to move over the conveyors to the right side of the board where you get a crate/wrapped present/victory counter.

I wanted to capture the slightly hectic "everything in all directions, build an intricate machine" feel of RoboRally, but in a game which could be learned and played quickly and easily, possibly even by a mix of children and adults.

So I focused on making sure (1) the decisions are usually interesting, there should usually be at least two plausible options and no "of course" decisions and (2) it should be hard to play wrong, all possible moves should be legal even if suboptimal, it should be easy to move the pieces without getting it wrong even if you're not winning. I even stuck to one tile a turn, partly because that seemed enough to be interesting, partly so you don't have to try to keep track of a hand you can drop or show people or forget to draw etc. Each turn is self-contained and fairly easy to follow.


- Deal tiles into a 5x4 grid. L = start row. R = score 1. Edges = pits (go back to the start). Alternate toys at start row, 1 each 3-4 players, 2 each 2 players. just off edge of board (on invisible "move forward" arrows)

Turn order:
- Draw tile, place over any tile in any orientation. Not under toy. Not on tile latched by adjacent magnet.
- Move all your toys in any order
- If you move off the end, get a present
- When a pawn reaches the end of falls off the edge or down a pit
--- goes back to the start (unless you have 1/2 toys already on the board, then return it to the supply)
--- Choose which row it starts in (not directly behind a tile with a toy in)
--- (WAS: opponent to your right choose which row it starts in)

- Move in direction of arrow, 1 tile or the number of tiles shown in the arrow
- Don't move past wall
- Push any number of toys ahead of you in a straight line (if no walls)

Game end
- When you draw the last tile, finish your turn. Then the player with the most presents wins.
- Tiebreaker = furthest-forward toy (then second-furthest, etc)
- (Alternative rule for longer game: when draw pile is exhuasted, collect all tiles with no toy on them and redeal. Play to N redeals or N presents)

- Infinite loop: Congrats! When toy returns to previously visited tile in loop, if it's impossible to change any of the tiles in the loop (eg. all have pawns on, or are latched by magnets), may return pawn to start
- Can't progress: (eg. unmoveavble unpassable tiles forming barrier from top to bottom of board). Redeal all those tiles.
- Move diag and walls: Moving from C to B. If A and left side of B are clear, ok. Same for D and bottom side of B. If both have walls, can't move. If both have pit, fall in. If one wall and one pit, roll a die:


- Move diag off corner of board = treat as moving off the end, get present, go back to start.

(These are the rules for Deck #2, a slightly tweaked version. I have Deck #1, the version Liv and Ghoti tested, safe and unchanged and won't fiddle with it, but the rules are written down, not electronic.)

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Jul. 21st, 2016 @ 06:02 pm Inspector Spacetime and the Sorcerer's Nuts
I was recently watching Community, and there's an excellent parody, Inspector Spacetime. It starts as a throw-away joke and I worried it might be a bit cringe-worthy, but Abed and Troy return to it over the season until there's a whole host of stuff about it. I hear some fans even made a spin-off (they changed the title).

It's a parody of Old Who. But it doesn't just take the most obvious traits and change the names slightly (though it does that too with Dalek-analogues etc). It amplifies. It takes the concept of the police-box and doctor's attitude and the doctor's time with UNIT and rolls them up into a simple idea where Inspector Spacetime is more directly police-detective themed. Which wasn't in the original, but is somehow even more true to it.

In Inspector Spacetime, there *was* a female incarnation, but many fans hated her (implied to be a combination of disliking the character, and disliking having a female character at all). And the characters argue whether that was a good thing (because more representation) or bad thing (because they didn't like it). All those parts come from Doctor Who, even though that combination never actually happened.

Likewise, sluggy freelance made an excellent parody of Harry Potter. It was occasionally a bit gross. But it didn't seem hostile to its target, as too many Potter parodies are. Rather, it affectionately continued many things people like about the original (Dumbledore being in charge, the camaraderie of the school, etc) while massively playing up everything that was potentially out of place (how dumbledore can be annoying when he orders people around, how the plot is carefully set up, but doesn't always make sense internally).

In particular, for book #2, the monster is NOT a giant snake. It's a completely DIFFERENT monster that incapacitates people in an entirely DIFFERENT way that JUST SO HAPPENS to be caused three different ways for three different victims, giving a clue as to the monster's actual (ridiculous) underlying nature.


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Jun. 27th, 2016 @ 01:20 pm Islamic Calendar
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AIUI the Islamic calendar is purely lunar. ie. the year is a fixed number of lunar months, and the seasons drift round the year, unlike a solar calendar (Gregorian) or lunisolar (Jewish, Chinese (?)).

Traditionally, a month starts when you first see the new moon. However, with astronomical calculation, it's easy to predict what day you are GOING to see the moon (provided it's not cloudy). There's also an understanding that after thirty days you move on to the next month anyway, so even if you follow the traditional system, the months never *accumulate* errors, there's always one month per new moon, and if one starts a bit late, it's correspondingly shorter.

In particular, this Ramadan, for many people following the traditional system, it started one day late, but it finishes a day late at random other years, not particularly the same year it started late, so it's likely everyone will celebrate finishing at the same time.

What I could NOT find in a quick google was which countries used which calendar in practice, for civil use (Gregorian or an astronomical version of the Islamic calendar? usually not an observation-based Islamic calendar?) and which countries' tradition used which calendar for religious festivals (astronomical calendar? observation calendar)? I'd assumed that would be fairly obvious, anyone able to fill me in?

This came about, because someone was complaining that in order to get timezone code correct, you had to take into account that Egypt cancelled daylight saving during ramadan. But I don't know what calendar they actually used for that.

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