Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just as planned!

Maybe some of you have heard of the presidential helicopter program that spun out of control and got cancelled after some 3 billion dollars.

There was some (half-serious) speculation that the semi-complete birds would end up being sold to Canada for dirt cheap.

As it turns out, they have been sold to us for dirt cheap, and these helicopters are really tricked out. The government intends to use them for SAR.

Yes! Finally, some actually useful equipment!

Don't get too excited, the second part of the speculation was that we'll end up spending large amounts of money downgrading its capabilities for whatever reason.

Oh yeah, and we only need them in the first place because for some reason we can't get spare parts for the old perfectly capable helicopters. As in it's apparently not possible or something.

I don't know what's worse, a defense department that consistently has massive cost spiral issues or a defense department that consistently collects great bargains and then spends large amounts of money to break what they just bought.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Studying is going well, thanks for asking

I made a Dominion tracker for myself, but anyone can use it if they want.

It's hosted here, courtesy Will.

It may very well turn out like that time in Settlers where I calculated my expected values for all the resources and then watched helplessly as I was unable to do anything about it despite the game unfolding exactly as predicted.

But you have more control in Dominion, so who knows.

As with anything open-source, I'm giving no documentation, what, are you an idiot or something?

Naturally it doesn't take into account a lot of things, in particular the expected handsize algorithm makes me very unhappy.

So if any CO majors would like to formulate some better equations for me *cough*Dani*cough* I would be happy to make the changes.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pimp my code

I guess this works:

function combination(n,k){
return factorial(n)/(factorial(k) + factorial(n-k);

function factorial(n){
nf = 1;
for (i=1;i<=n;i++){
nf = nf*i;
return nf;

I'm looking for something more like:

def combination (n,k)
f = lambda {|x|(1..x).inject(1){|x,y|x*y}}
result f(n)/(f(k)*f(n-k))

If anyone can use array.reduce in Javascript without it turning into a mess, I would like to know. <_<

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's cheaper anyhow

As people may know, I often quit hobbies when my friends get too good at them.

Ever since Phi introduced Dominion to me last Christmas break, I've been in love with the game. But only recently have I found out that an online client exists, and that's been what's really helpful in actually convincing people to play.

Net money spent: $0


I enjoy Dominion because it's kind of like Magic on ADD.

There are many problems with casual Magic. There's always been the disparity in how much money people are willing to spend on the game with the accordingly disparate deck power levels. The bigger problem for me is that after awhile, all the match ups between people's main decks have been played out and that's boring. At that point there's the option of spending more money to build new decks, or making terrible secondary decks with super volatile power levels. Not cool. Drafting is an option, but at that point you've committed $15 - $25 and an entire afternoon to playing Magic.

Dominion solves all of those problems: everyone shares the same card pool, you build a new deck every game, and you play. If you end up with something you hate, it's scrapped at the end of the game anyways and you're free to make something new. And having played with Desire builds before, let me assure you that building a stormy engine that cycles your deck twice over in Dominion is every bit as satisfying as resolving a lethal Brainfreeze.

Magic multiplayer has the problem of single player decks being totally unsuited for the format. Control decks with one-use spells for instance. Actually, control decks in general make people mad. Combo decks work once before people get wise and start to gang up on you. EDH is a good start, but also gets stale without fresh card infusions every so often. Emperor is one of my favourites, but having a requirement of exactly 6 people is hard. Dominion on the other hand is less confrontational, so while multiplayer changes the game dynamics, it is difficult to for people to team-up. In this sense it's more "tactically pure". People might see it as a downside, but really you still have fun interacting with friends; if I wanted to play diplomat I'd play Diplomacy. Incidentally, I can never convince people to play Diplomacy...funny that. The flexible player requirements are also a nice bonus.

Magic has terrible mana issues. You can have the right curve and land count and still run into mana screw frequently (probably 20-30% of the time). One deck primer I read specifically mentioned how to decide if you want to mulligan to 2 when you have Chalice of the Void in hand, which means that scenario can be expected to occur repeatedly within a reasonably finite amount of time. Yes, it hits everyone and, averaged out, good players will rise to the top, but it is never fun hitting your 4th land on the 8th turn. In Dominion you cycle your deck so many times and draw so often that if you have terrible economy throughout a game, it's almost certainly your own fault for building a crappy base.

Finally, it's super easy to pick up. Most everyone will fully understand the rules before the second game. So people who would never play something like Magic [1] can get right into it. Naturally, the fact that there is no capital cost for new joiners is also helpful.

That said, can I convince anyone want to buy some poker chips?

1) Not that it affects my decks at all, but post-2010 combat rules are bullshit. Everything uses the stack except combat? Stupid. Extra rules baggage.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

y u no liek?

This is the very lovely Panamera that everyone else seems to hate:

This is the CTS-V wagon that everyone gushes over:


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

No way!

This is what the Batmobile should look like!

Soo~ sweet!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Stealth, the white elephant

Stealth is very expensive to make and maintain. There are other trade-offs too, for instance, the F-22 nose is smaller than the nose of F/A-18(E/F)s and F-15s so the latter jets can be upgraded to hold better avionics.

Aircraft usually have a service life of 30 years. So here's a problem, if anyone starts building radar sophisticated enough to track stealth aircraft (VHF/UHF beams), you can't just modify your fleet to counter it. Your stealth advantage is negated.

At least F-22s have their thrust-vectoring and supercruise abilities, so they would still make very capable air-to-air fighters. Very overpriced ones, but that's a sunk cost.

As far as I'm aware, F-35s do not have all-aspect stealth as F-22s do, so they will be easier to crack. F-35s have the flight envelope of an F/A-18 and no supercruise. Without stealth, you just bought a $115m gen-4 fighter with somewhat bigger load out. Bravo.

Anecdote: the USAF does not intend to use F-35s for air-to-air. That will still be the mission of their F-15Cs and F-22s, the F-35s will supplant (or supplement?) the F-16s for strike and SEAD roles. Take that as you will.

What I think is a better alternative? Active defenses. Electronic warfare. Get a better ARM up and running (I hear HARMs are terrible, and ALARMs are marginally better) and send in your Growlers and Wild Weasels. And if the enemy adapts, you just need to come up with a better jamming pod instead of scrapping the fleet.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

First Class

Now, this is the kind of movie that M. Grondin would write a 3500 word exposition on, including a 100 word treatise on Michael Fassbender's chemistry with Hugh Jackson, whose character who shows up for a net 10 seconds. Interestingly enough, he will fail to comment on why Erik, who was quite a snappy dresser for the first 2 hours, would show up in the last scene wearing a red suit, cape and purple helmet.

In light of this, I will choose instead to critique some things that literally no other critic would.

Naval tactics.

Firstly, I may have misheard, but I was under the impression that the 7th fleet was ordered to blockade Cuba. I hope they were actually talking about the 2nd fleet because sailing from Fleet Activities Yokosuka to Cuba tends to take a long time.

Big clusters of ships show up a lot in pictures. Those are not real battle formations, they are just posing for the camera. In reality you could have ships from an B/C/ESG picketing 10km away along the likely threat vectors.

Sonar. It's not just the act of sending sound waves out, you need to be able to pick up the echoes and discern them. This ability of Banshee was not alluded to in the film previously. Additionally, the difficulty of littoral sub hunting isn't in illuminating the ocean floor, it's discerning what are the subs and what are just rocks.

There were 2 Iowa class battleships present at the battle. All of them were decommissioned in the 50s.

Assuming they were active and deployed to blockade, they would never use their 16" guns for such a role. I'm thinking the 40mm Bofors or the 5 inchers at most. Also, warning shots, the more civilized nations among us tend to use those.

Or you know what's even better for maritime interdiction? Aircraft, and as it turns out, we even had aircraft specifically built for this role. They are called P-2s and they are the shit.

Speaking of aircraft, you'd think that either side would be concerned that there is a rogue plane circling their airspace the whole time. What are those AA pickets doing?

Is Beast really that smart? He decided to take the SR-71, a plane designed for the sole purpose of flying faster than anything else airborne, and make it VTOL. Seems like what they need is a C-130. I mean, however slower they move in that, surely they'll still beat the blockaders sailing in from Japan.

A Mk12 5/38 has a range of 12km, missiles even longer. I don't know why all the ships were steaming in what looked like a counter-current PASSEX 2000 yards off the coast to engage, it's a nonsensical tactic.

On the other hand, it's kind of difficult for a person to see at that distance. So while Magneto might be good at passing metal through the air, I don't imagine his fire control being very good. It's kind of hard to hit ships because they are small compared to the ocean (and it'd be even harder if the entire combined fleets weren't sailing like every ship was doing CONREP exercises with every other ship). Unless he could detect the electromagnetic anomalies in the Earth's field caused the the metal hulls, but that'd be such bullshit. Well. As if levitating isn't already bullshit.

Yes, I do mix units a lot; deal with it.

"My face is starting to feel numb"

Thursday, June 02, 2011

If the cup is spilt, just pour more water in

Minecraft is one of those games that means something different to everyone.

This naturally makes it difficult to administrate a server.

I don't even know what you two want from Minecraft!

What do I want from Minecraft?

That's easy.

I want to create beautiful things, I want others to see what I create and I want to see what others create [1].

I've spent unreasonable amounts of time on the old server, everybody has spent unreasonable time on the old server, and we've built quite an impressive piece.

I want to toss it all.


I like to think of it like illustration; nobody works on the same piece forever. There always comes a time to stop, and there are two reasons for it [2]. First, is that the picture is perfect and adding more would do nothing but spoil it. The second is burnout: either it's flawed and not worth salvaging, there is nothing more to be learned from it, or just boredom from working on the same thing for so long.

And for me, it has gotten to be all three.

Of course, not everybody is me and is understandably reluctant to throw away man-months of work.

I can't really convince anybody otherwise if they really think that the old world is a masterpiece, or if they really want to complete that project they've been slaving away on for weeks.

But fear of starting anew? Maybe I can say something about that. Don't get me wrong, there are tons of things I love about the old world; I love Joe's town, I love my basement and, yes, I even love your vault room, Overmeyer. There are things to like about my old art too, and people ask me often why I toss as many pieces as I do, or even something like why I work in one layer. Aren't I afraid of losing the work? Not particularly. I did it once, I can do it again and moreover, I will get better at it in the future. And then it becomes easier and easier to see the flaws in past work, despite their redeeming features.

No, I haven't got any big art projects lately, but I am infinitely more pleased with the sketches I pound out on a whim now than what seemed like massive undertakings many years ago. It's easy to tout the persistence of Minecraft, but let's not discount stagnation either, which is a trap easy to fall into. Keep the old world, archive it as a record of our achievements. But let's start something new, and make it better than before.

So here's to fresh starts: cheers, mates.

1) I was also going to talk about my view of mods, and it relates, but this post already crept so long, so I'll save it for another day.

2) There's also the "commission deadline is approaching so I need to maximize my effort to money ratio" reason but I think we have the luxury of ignoring that one.

I quite like these covers

This is why healthcare costs are out of control

Not the point of the article, but it caught my eye:

Before Elias Zerhouni became director of the National Institutes of Health, he was a senior hospital leader at Johns Hopkins, and he calculated how many clinical staff were involved in the care of their typical hospital patient—how many doctors, nurses, and so on. In 1970, he found, it was 2.5 full-time equivalents. By the end of the nineteen-nineties, it was more than fifteen. The number must be even larger today. Everyone has just a piece of patient care.

At one point, they looked you up and down, gave you some taps and made a diagnosis. Now you get sent off for blood tests and scans with more acronyms than an MBA class; someone needs to pay for all of the equipment and technicians.