Checking In

Yep, I’ve been sandbagged in by other commitments. The last week has been a weird mix of nostalgia and panic, desperately trying to remotely feed a supercomputer cluster while also visiting old friends in faraway lands, with just the slightest tinge of mortality angst hovering in the background. It doesn’t help that, yet again, I find the topics I want to blog about involve a helluva lot of pain and misery. Weighty subjects provoke creative inertia, at least for me.

The situation should improve around the end of the week. Should.

It Is Friday, After All

I was sitting down to write a weighty post about child separation, while reminding myself of another post I’d promised on the subject, and eyeing up which Steven Pinker post I should begin work on, all of which is happening as I’m juggling some complex physics and computational problems, and-

You know what? Here’s a video of someone dunking oranges in a fish tank, in an excellent demonstration of the scientific method. [Read more…]

This Could Get Me Interested In Sports

South Korea has been a powerhouse in eSports. They’ve been running StarCraft tournaments since 2002, handed out most of the prize money, and as a consequence dominate the player rankings.

While distracting myself from a blog post, a video of a February 2018 StarCraft II caught my eye: a top South Korea player was playing… a Canadian woman? Huh? This sounded historic, so I tuned in to parts one and two, intending to keep it in the background while tapping away.

It pretty soon became the foreground. No spoilers for how the tournament turned out (the announcers totally sell it, anyway), but it was indeed a historic set of games. Non-Korean players rarely make it to the finals of a world championship, this tourney was a preview for eSports joining the Winter Olympics, and… I may not be much of a StarCraft player, but it looked like a damn fine round. Once you’re ready to be spoiled, no less than Rolling Stone explains several other ways those games were amazing.

Are You As Smart As A President?

During his annual physical, Trump petitioned for, and got, a test of his mental abilities. The doc says he got a perfect mark. Let’s set aside that he also makes some questionable claims about Trump’s shape, and accept that part as accurate. The president himself is glowing about the high marks he got.

With North Korea persisting as the major global challenge facing Trump this year, the president cast doubt on whether talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be useful. In the past he has not ruled out direct talks with Kim. “I’d sit down, but I‘m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” he said, noting that past negotiations with the North Koreans by his predecessors had failed to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

He blamed his three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the crisis and, a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score on a cognitive test, suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it.

“I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he said.

As luck would have it, the test Trump took has both a work sheet and instructions available online. I recommend you spare a moment for it, but as a teaser I’ll share a few questions.

  • Indicate the right third of the space and give the following instructions: “Draw a clock. Put in all the numbers and set the time to 10 past 11”.
  • The examiner gives the following instructions: “Tell me the date today”. If the subject does not give a complete answer, then prompt accordingly by saying: “Tell me the [year, month, exact date, and day of the week].” Then say: “Now, tell me the name of this place, and which city it is in.”
  • Beginning on the left, point to each figure and say: “Tell me the name of this animal”.
  • The examiner gives the following instructions: “I am going to read you a sentence. Repeat it after me, exactly as I say it [pause]: “I only know that John is the one to help today.” Following the response, say: “Now I am going to read you another sentence. Repeat it after me, exactly as I say it [pause]: “The cat always hid under the couch when dogs were in the room.”

Take the presidential challenge! If you can equal his score, maybe you’re also fit enough to have partial control over the world’s largest military and full control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

[HJH 2018-01-17] In hindsight, I’m a little worried the above comes off as ablest. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment is a legit test, and quite useful for certain things.

It’s a pretty useful tool to quickly assess dementia symptoms, or to assess cognitive functioning after a stroke. A 2007 study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found the Montreal Cognitive Assessment correctly detected 94 percent of patients with mild cognitive impairment, performing better than another test of cognitive wherewithal. It’s been shown to be helpful in identifying symptoms in Parkinson’s patients, and in those who have suffered a stroke.

The point is that it’s a really odd thing to boast about. It’s more difficult to own a driver’s license or graduated high school than pass this test. Breaking out the Champaign tells me you either lack enough intelligence to understand what the test is about, or you are so isolated that you think everyone’s beef with you is that you have dementia. It ain’t, I assure you.

He’s a Skeptic Thought Leader?

Peter Boghossian: "Why is it that nearly every male who’s a 3rd wave intersectional feminist is physically feeble & has terrible body habitus?"Some random facts about me:

  • I just measured my resting heart rate with my phone. The median value after three tries was 52 bpm. I’ve done better.
  • I checked the fitness app on my phone, and in the last week I’ve done six hours and forty-eight minutes of jogging, over 50km of distance. Some of that was in 30C heat.
  • During my fastest 10k race, my average pace was better than five minutes per kilometre. It wasn’t a chipped race, so my actual pace was better.
  • I don’t do nearly as many hikes as I used to, but back in the day I had no problem carrying more than 40 kilograms of weight over 16 km. I don’t know the exact weight, because my backpack broke my hiking partner’s scale.
  • I’m not sure of my maximum elevation gain; it was either the time I scrambled Mount Temple solo (1,600m gain over 16km distance) or during a backpack on the Rockwall (about the same gain over 29km, from the Floe Lake to Helmet Falls campgrounds). I can’t find the hiking maps I’d need to confirm the latter.
  • I learned that “argumentum ad body shaming” was a logical fallacy back in elementary school.

… Oh right, and I forgot about that solo snowshoe and x-country ski at Lake O’Hara, the one where I ran out of food and water. Some noodling with Google Earth suggests I did 30km that day. [Read more…]

Cup of Babylon

I recently got into an argument over how big a cup is. I’d thought that measurement came in only two sizes, Imperial and Metric, so I hit up Wikipedia.

1 U.S. legal cup 240mL
1 U.S. customary cup 236.5882365mL
1 Metric cup 250mL
1 Imperial cup 284mL
1 Canadian customary cup 227.3045mL
1 cup in some Latin American countries 200mL
1 contemporary Japanese cup 200mL
1 historic Japanese cup 180.3906836mL

… This is why we cannot have nice things.