Wednesday, February 25, 2009

King's To You

Well played, God. Well played.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Flame Wars...Commence!

I'm a pretty easy-going, laid back, non-confrontational sort of guy, so I don't get involved in online flame wars very often. A few days ago, however, I managed to start one of my own.

I play online "Werewolf" (also known as "Mafia" and probably many other names) with a group of people. At the beginning of the game, the Game Master secretly assigns several people to be "werewolves", while the remaining people are innocent villagers. The game sequences through day and night phases. At night, the werewolves choose a villager to kill. During the day, the villagers attempt to discover who the werewolves are and at the end, vote to lynch someone, hopefully a werewolf.

Depending on how advanced you want to get, there are additional roles; our usual ones are an assassin (allows people to take kill or protection contracts), a detective (can investigate one person each night), and a necromancer (gives "dead" people a half-vote until the necromancer also dies).

Each of the special roles (werewolf/assassin/detective/necromancer) has a special user account they can log in with, so they can post messages while remaining anonymous. In addition, there is a visible list of every currently logged-in user. Here's where things got messy.

Last round, I wrote a program that monitored the list of logged-in users, recording when each one signed in and signed out--all public and freely-available information . I was one of the werewolves, so my priority was killing the necromancer and detective.

Right off the bat, the detective logged in, an action recorded by my program. Going through the log, I noticed that a certain user had signed out right before the detective logged. Right after the detective logged off, the same user logged back in. From that, it was clear that that user was the detective, and my werewolf buddies and I killed her that night.

At the end of the game, I didn't hide how I had discovered the detective's identity, and the flame wars immediately began. It wasn't explicitly against the rules, but was it unethical? Was it fair? Should someone use a skill not everyone had?

It was quite a heated discussion, but in the end, a rule was made against it and we moved on. Now that I think about it, it's like the recent discussion over the new swimsuits introduced in the Olympics. Everyone has the swimming skill, some better than others, but is the use of the new, high-tech swimsuits cheating or unethical?

Not sure. Of course, I tend to think that I can use whatever skills I can bring to the table, as long as they aren't against the rules or illegal, but that view didn't seem to be shared by many people.

PulseAudio fix for Ubuntu

On my laptop running Ubuntu (Intrepid Ibex), I've had difficulties getting audio to work simultaneously in both Firefox (Flash, to be exact) and my music players. I can play music in RhythmBox or Movie Player, but if Flash, running in Firefox, manages to grab audio, then the music players can't get it back.

The following steps from here fixed the problem. (As usual, the most time-consuming part was identifying exactly what the problem was. Fixing took a few seconds.)

$ echo "default_driver=pulse" >~/.libao
$ rm -r ~/.pulse ~/.asoundrc*
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
$ sudo apt-get remove libflashsupport
$ sudo apt-get install libasound2-plugins padevchooser libao-pulse libsdl1.2debian-pulseaudio


The instructions on the webpage were more detailed, described the purpose of each step, and included other things to check along the way, but in the end it came down to the above steps for me.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hunger Games

I just finished reading a book called "Hunger Games." Child warned me that the end was a cliffhanger (with no sequel written yet!), so I was a little nervous.

As it turns out, it was just a cliffhanger in the romance part of the story, which I couldn't care less about. The Hunger Games themselves were tied up nicely and satisfactorily.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Poor Jasmine

Poor Jasmine. She was backed into just a few months ago, and now another car ran a stop sign and poor Jasmine plowed head-first into it. At least it wasn't bad; no one was injured, and there's only minor damage to the hood and front corner panel, which should all be paid for by the other driver's insurance.

That was at 9:30 this morning. When Child was finally returned safely to work, I took the car down to a car wash to spray off some mud and salt before the insurance adjuster comes over. The car wash wouldn't take the dollar bills I had, but our bank was only three blocks away, so I drove over and got a roll of quarters.

That took about three minutes. Returning to the car wash, I found the intersection I had just passed through clogged with a tangle of car wreckage. The accident was so fresh that a police car that had been driving behind me didn't even know it had happened until we reached the intersection, at which point I pulled over, he saw the wreckage, and flipped his lights on.

The car wash was on that corner, so I pulled in and rinsed Jasmine off. I was halfway done before the first "dispatched" police car arrived, along with a fire truck and ambulance.

It wasn't until then that I realized how lucky Child and I were. Child wasn't hurt, the other driver wasn't hurt, and both cars were drivable. Child's accident could have been a lot worse. I said a prayer of thanks for Child, and tossed in a quick prayer for the people in the accident I had just passed. May God watch over us all.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

SSH Passwordless Authentication

Since I do a lot of website work, I have to log into a remote server I run fairly often. In addition, I wanted to set up some scripts that would automatically back up stuff from my local computer to that remote server, and vice versa.

However, logging in to that remote server requires entering my password, which is a pain as often as I have to do it, and which would make it impossible for the backup scripts to run automatically.

I found a great overview of the steps necessary to set up passwordless logging in through SSH, and they're pretty simple. I'm posting the link here just so I can find it in the future.


Six players. $1.20 in prize money, given out in 10 rounds of 12 cents each. (We're trying to make a point here, not make the kids rich.)

Each player has a card with two choices on the two sides: share the 12 cents, or take it all. Players make their choice, then simultaneously reveal their cards. 10 rounds are played, as previously mentioned.

If everyone chooses "share," the money is divided evenly between them. If 1-3 people choose "take it all," the money is divided evenly between them. If more than three choose "take it all," they simply lose the pot. (We could have been even more mean and said if more than one person chose "take it all," then they lost the pot.)

If everyone had chosen to "share," they each would have ended up with 20 cents. As it stood, at the end of the game, the winner had 16 cents, and it went down from there. (The winner was the only one to choose "take it all" on the first round, so he took 12 cents from that. The remain nine rounds, he earned his remaining four cents.)

Our goal was to illustrate the benefits of a "Zion" community. Moses 7:18: "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

It's really true. If you could get everyone to "live in righteousness," then you really wouldn't have any poor people (materially OR spiritually).


parable: a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. From the Late Latin "parabola."

parabola: the set of points in a plane that are equidistant from a fixed line and a fixed point in the same plane or in a parallel plane. See parable.

So what does a mathematical construct and a short story have in common, besides their Latin (and from there, Greek) roots?

No clue. But a teacher in Sunday School today pointed out the similar roots, and I thought it was interesting. He made some sort of point, but my thoughts went a different direction.

I think this is a pseudo-mathematical illustration of a parable. The more we study it (x-axis), the more understanding we gain (y-axis).

However, parables are not meant to be perfect illustrations of a particular doctrine, they're simply rough teaching aids. Therefore, if you start to scrutinize a parable too closely, or interpret it beyond the original intent of the teacher, you start losing understanding, and can even go negative (understanding it incorrectly).

This isn't a particularly deep post, but it was a thought that interested me, so I thought I'd stick it out here...