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June 30, 2011

 (the significance of this picture will be revealed at the end of the series)

A photo will capture a wonder in Iceland, but it won’t show that Iceland itself was a wonder; we could have stopped our car anywhere and at least one good photo would have been there. Nature’s improvisations came in a playful rhythm: sudden patches of dandelions (apparently used by locals as a Viagra substitute) and lupine adorned a desolate yet attractive landscape, with stern skies and rugged rocks that would have been great for faking the Moon landing. In impossible places were the ancient stone structure, a bird with a beak of the wrong color, or the carefree sheep, as if a tired artist made a few errant strokes before bed.

Sometimes, one of these guys would somehow find their way onto the tops of these mountains.

The sheep were the most unreasonable, stuck onto sides of vertical walls like scattered cotton balls, or curled for a nap in ditches from which I would have trouble escaping. I was jealous of the views they had as we drove by, imagining them baaing at me with arrogance, as if they owned the entire island. They were haughty creatures who would scuttle away in rapid little steps when we came close. I ate a lot of lamb on this trip, the most memorable of which at the Indian restaurant in Reykjavik which was purportedly ranked as the 2nd “best thing to do in Europe,” beating out the Louvre and only losing to the Eiffel Tower. Later we found out that this was the result of some online survey with 12 total votes. However, the lamb was excellent, with rich, juicy onion slices on the side.

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Go and Learning

June 11, 2011

After my epic shoulder injury, I stopped lifting weights and playing ultimate for more than a year. This gave me some extra time, and I’ve decided to study Go “seriously” (well, as seriously as I can with the responsibilities of a graduate student) with that time. I stopped about a couple of weeks ago, after which I had some introspection about what I’ve accomplished and failed to accomplish. The tl;dr version of my progress is at, though it is not very interesting by itself; what I’ve gained most from the introspection were some lessons and observations, both about Go and just learning things in general. I thought this would be a good place to write them down, both for a future me and for the case that someone else may benefit from them.

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itunes2rhythm – an iTunes to Rhythmbox converter

June 8, 2010

I was extremely happy when Windows died on me, because then I got to do what I wanted to do for a long time – run a *nix again. I decided on an XP/Ubuntu dual boot, which worked like a dream (Ubuntu is so amazing, especially compared to 7 years ago).

A couple of days in, I wanted to import my music information from my windows partition into Rhythmbox, the Ubuntu music player. This was surprisingly frustrating, and the closest thing I found was an orphaned (?) python script here. Unfortunately, it did not do the main thing I desired, which was to grab my 200+ iTunes playlists that I didn’t want to remake, so I decided to write the functionality into the aforementioned file. I also cleaned up the code a tiny bit. I put the result up at Google Code here:

It still has many flaws (it is too dumb to deal with bad filenames, the code for putting in other playlists besides those from iTunes is amateurish, etc.), so it is nothing more than a hack right now (but it works!). I doubt I will work on it anymore, so I’ll put it here in case anyone else can find some use for it (or improve upon it, which is highly welcome).



On Things Big and Small

April 4, 2010

A pleasant Thursday morning before the Boston Monsoon, I was in J’s car going to Foxwoods. With us was T, an aspiring player earnest about improvement who has lamented about his recent rut. This was our first trip together, and he gave me a couple of hands to dissect on the ride. I happily obliged.

His first couple of hands were fairly standard, so a “dude you’re destroying him here, just bet” or “well bottom-two may not be good here since he’s so tight” settled those. The next hand got interesting: after he c-bet a dry Axx flop with mid-pair meh-kicker, the turn paired the A. I asked T to give his analysis, and he gave me several reasons to bet, along the lines of “I think I’m ahead” and “I bet because I didn’t want to look weak since I’ve been checking.”

To me, this was completely fine – these thoughts describe exactly how I would first approach the situation, if not how I might just make the decision. However, for this particular hand several factors bugged me (for example, I knew that his opponent is solid and balances his ranges well), so I decided to ask what I thought to be the natural next question: what is his opponent’s range? What is the range T is representing? What is the expected value in each part of the range given his river plan?

T was confused for a moment, and gave me a few more sentences like “well, I think he’s strong?” or “well, he probably doesn’t have an A.” I was in turn confused myself because he wasn’t answering my questions, but I quickly realized that I was speaking a different language. I understood at that point what his plateau was, why I would make a horrible mathematician, and why Martin Luther King Jr’s battle was so difficult.

I’ll explain. Cards first.

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Europe Sampler, Part IV: Munich-Zurich-Finis

December 20, 2009

“Excusez moi?” The cute girl with the nose ring had said. Her gold hair was spiced with a brown streak, and she had very smooth skin, so maybe I would have bought her facewash if I knew any French. Instead, I shrugged. She understood my nonunderstanding, while I had no way of telling her I was in the least English-appreciating country on my trip, with neither a place to sleep nor a train ticket.

The evening, when I was most lonely, was filled with people. Families, couples, tourist groups – smiling, having fun, maybe even willing to help me. Only hours ago they were warm and fair companions, soaking up Paris alongside me without taking more than their share, but now they seemed almost like cold extras, simply there to decorate the scene before darkness shambles in with its army of horrors. My lack of a cellphone suddenly made sense as a move planted by the malicious director.

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