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Philip Kendall
01 August 2012 @ 11:17 pm
One Olympics-related story which is drifting slightly under the radar is the disqualification of eight women's badminton players for "not trying to win". To cut a slightly long story short, the players knew that a loss in round-robin play would give them an easier match in the knock-out stages, so they actively tried to lose.

What I think about this...Collapse )

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Philip Kendall
02 February 2011 @ 09:41 pm
This week's Private Eye claims (in one of its "Number Crunching" sidebars): "1 in 248,832: probability of accidentally tapping in correct sequence of keys to access voicemails". A little bit of thought reveals that 248,832 is in fact 12^5 - the only way I can see this makes sense is if people have 5 "digit" voicemail PINs, in which "*" and "#" are also allowed. Does anyone actually have this kind of PIN for their voicemail, and if not, am I missing something obvious, or has Private Eye just got it wrong?
Current Mood: wondering
Philip Kendall
08 January 2011 @ 12:49 pm
Most board games (eg chess) are essentially symmetric, in that all players in the game are constrained by the same rules and have the same goal. While there may be some minor differences between players (eg the white player in chess moves first), these are either minor, averaged out by playing multiple games while swapping roles, or both. On the other hand, there are some board games which are explicitly asymmetric: Halatafl (Fox and Geese) is a older example, while the phenomenon is also seen in more modern games such as Scotland Yard, Space Hulk and Last Night on Earth.

Now, while I can think of asymmetric board games, I can't think of any fundamentally asymmetric sports: the closest I can come up with is some things like American football and real tennis where the rules are temporarily different for one player/team than the other, but nothing were the rules are permanently different for one team. Am I missing anything?

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Philip Kendall
29 December 2010 @ 04:44 pm
If anybody reading this has any desire for any of the following Dungeons & Dragons novels and is willing to either pick them up or pay postage, let me know. Preference will be given to people I know, people picking things up and people taking away more than one item in approximately that order. Quality varies a bit, but all have sun-bleached spines and none would be described as pristine.

  • Dragonlance Elven Nations Trilogy

    • Firstborn

  • Dragonlance Heroes

    • The Legend of Huma (poor condition)

    • Stormblade

    • Weasel's Luck

  • Dragonlance Heroes II

    • Kaz the Minotaur

    • The Gates of Thorbardin

    • Galen Beknighted

  • Dragonlance Meetings Sextet

    • Kindred Spirits

  • Dragonlance Preludes

    • Darkness and Light

    • Kendermore

    • Brothers Majere

  • Dragonlance Preludes II

    • Riverwind the Plainsman

    • Flint the King

    • Tanis the Shadow Years

  • Forgotten Realms Cleric Quintet

    • Canticle

    • In Sylvan Shadows

Current Mood: organised
Philip Kendall
19 October 2010 @ 07:53 pm
The noble sport of cricket this summer was once again in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as three Pakistani bowlers were accused of spot-fixing. One proposal now being floated by the ICC is to use undercover agents to see if players are reporting approaches from bookmakers. What interests me here isn't so much that the proposal has been floated, but that it's been publicly announced. Naively, this would seem to me that it would reduce the prospect of this catching any cheats as they'll know there's a non-trivial chance it's a sting... on the other hand, it may actually be more effective at cutting down on any illegal activity.

I wonder how many actual agents they'll use, or if this is actually a bit of a bluff and the threat of "bookmakers" being ICC agents will be enough to have a significant effect without getting into any possibly ethically dubious areas.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Philip Kendall
19 September 2010 @ 11:24 am
Dear lazyweb,

I'm vaguely looking for some software which will let me get a bit of a better handle on what I spend my money on every month. Requirements are hopefully not too stringent: can import data from whatever my bank/credit card providers can export (they'll all seem to manage tab/comma separated value, some of them may do more complicated formats), allows me to automatically classify transactions into a number of "buckets" (entertainment, food, salary, savings, holiday, etc), and lets me get some sort of summary report of those buckets.

About the only other requirement is that it doesn't cost a significant amount of money - I could probably knock up something to do most of what I want in not too much time.

Any suggestions appreciated.
Current Mood: organised
Philip Kendall
23 January 2010 @ 11:46 am
It's now looking very much like the scam that is/was ADE651 is going to come to an end pretty quickly, which is unquestionably a good thing (and due credit to Private Eye for having been after this one for a while now). What's surprising me the most isn't that somebody attempted to make a quick buck out of the security situation in Iraq, it's that the Iraqi government has spent £80 million on these things, which are so obviously bogus to anyone with even the most basic understanding of science ("powered solely by the user's static electricity", "detect explosives, banknotes and ivory 1km underground" (paraphrased slightly), "works on nuclear quadrupole resonance or nuclear magnetic resonance", "the theory behind dowsing and the theory behind how we actually detect explosives is very similar"; I could go on). Who authorised the purchase of these things, and why are they not criminally negligent? Am I being too cynical if I expect that there will have been a significant "donation" from ATSC (the manufacturer of the ADE651) to someone in the Iraqi government?
Philip Kendall
21 January 2010 @ 11:04 am
Donating in aid of Haiti just because you're going to get free stuff is the wrong reason for donating. But... if you were going to donate something anyway, and you're an RPG fan, you could do lots worse than DriveThruRPG's offer.

About the only thing to note is that DriveThruRPG are requesting you don't actually download everything now as otherwise their servers fall over. Also note there's no time limit on the downloads.
Philip Kendall
25 November 2009 @ 02:17 pm
One thing which is obvious to anyone that works in the tech industry (and probably most people that don't as well) is that it's not well populated with women. However, anyone taking a casual look at the team photo (three-quarters of the way down the page) for Assassin's Creed II will notice the large proportion of women there. On the other hand, anyone taking a closer look will note that the entirety of the crowd beyond about 4 rows back is exclusively male...
Philip Kendall
17 November 2009 @ 02:27 pm
Despite its appearance, this post isn't really about American football.

On Sunday night, the Indianapolis Colts played the New England Patriots in the NFL. It was a close game, and the result was apparently significantly influenced by one decision from Bill Belichick, the Patriots head coach. Towards the end of the game, he had one of two choices: a low risk tactic or a high risk one (I suspect people either know what those choices were or don't care, so I won't go into them here). One thing the statistical community built up around American football have been saying for the past few years now is that teams are too risk averse: ie they would do better if they used higher risk tactics more than they currently do.

What happened in this case was that Belichick went for the high risk tactic, and it failed: the Colts went on to win the game. This decision has been pretty much universally panned by the media, despite the fact that the stats community are saying the decision didn't actually make that much difference. Of course, the media (and fan) reaction goes a long way to explaining why NFL coaches are more risk-averse than they "should" be, but I still find in surprising that there's such hostility to a decision which by the best objective measures we have wasn't obviously wrong, especially after Moneyball. But that may be because I'm a stathead.