Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Fair cake distribution

To ensure fair distribution of portions of cake (or whatever) between two people, there is a method called "cut and choose". One person cuts the cake, the other person chooses which of the two pieces goes to whom. It's a way of ensuring fairness without the need for a third party or authority figure. The problem is that it only applies to situations involving two people, and quite often there are three or more people involved. I've wondered for a while whether it is possible to extend the method to deal with an arbitrary number of people.

One way might be to have one person cut the first piece of cake, then someone else decides whether to take that piece or to have the cutter take it. Once you take your piece, you're out of the process (to enjoy your cake) and the other person in your cut-and-choose pair continues as cutter for the next piece. The problem is that it's really tricky, for instance, to judge a fair 1/7th of a cake by eye, so the first few cuts are likely to be very inaccurate. It's still as fair as you can get, though, because you either cut a fair piece or you lose. Cut too big and that much cake is gone from the game. Cut too small and you leave with less. The problem would be if 1/6th of the cake looked close enough to be fair, which has a carry-on effect to the rest of the cutting.
I'd love to give this experiment a try with real people, just to see if it works.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm sure "share some cake with me" will be a pretty easy sell for experimental subjects.
PPS - However, "please carefully follow this procedure before eating" might be more difficult.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014


What would happen if a game got pulled from Steam? What if it was a really big and popular one? Someone would have to offer refunds, wouldn't they? I mean, you can't take millions of dollars from gamers, imply to them that they will have perpetual access to the game, then destroy it. That's just going to make you a lot of enemies. However, the first titles pulled from Steam would be older ones where the costs of ongoing support outweigh the revenues earned by selling it. Computer hardware advances all the time. Eventually, old titles won't be playable on new machines.

The question is: what does ownership mean in a world of walled gardens? If Steam goes out of business, for instance, what does it mean to "own" the PC games I bought there? What about if Amazon decides this whole Kindle thing isn't worth it any more and pulls the plug? If someone else can take it away so easily, then I don't really "own" what I've "bought" there, do I?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We really need other words for those actions.
PPS - I don't think "rent" or "license" sounds right, either.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Deciding and doing

Knowing what to do and doing it are much more fun than trying to find out what to do next. Decisions are hard. Action is easy, unless you've convinced yourself that you need to get motivated to take action.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Separating your deciding time from your action time is a big part of GTD.
PPS - At least the way I remember it. I need to re-read that book.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Black holes and antimatter

Could you annihilate a black hole by throwing enough antimatter into it, or would that just make it stronger? I guess it would recapture all the energy of the annihilation, but would it convert that energy back to mass by sheer pressure? Would that convert antimatter into normal matter? Clearly I need to brush up on my astrophysics.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or ask someone.
PPS - That's probably easier.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Neutral vs good

Most people are not bad people in the same way that most rocks are not bad rocks. It's kind of the default setting of sitting there, doing nothing. Being a truly good person takes more effort than avoiding the things you shouldn't do. That's neutral, not good.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And if you're always neutral, that's pretty bad.
PPS - It's hard to win that way.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Email inconvenience

When I happen to visit Yahoo Answers occasionally, looking for this or that answer to a technical problem, I notice that the site tells me how many new emails I have. "Oh," I think to myself, "That's convenient. I should check those messages while I'm here." I don't use my Yahoo mail account much, because it's basically my spam trap, but sometimes it attracts something useful. Anyway, I click on the icon and it asks me for my password to log in. "But," I say to myself, "how did you know how many emails I have if I'm not logged in?" At this point, I usually leave, because the convenience factor is gone.

As with all security, it's probable a trade-off with convenience. Yahoo knows who I am based on some old cookie or something, but needs my password before letting me see my mail. Understandable, but inconvenient.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wasn't a fan of the updates they made to Yahoo mail some time ago.
PPS - They took away all the keyboard shortcuts I'd been using.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I am being awesome at remembering names

When I started my acting classes at La Boite a few weeks ago, I told myself that, for once, I was going to be the one that was good with names. I was shocked to find that this worked, to a great extent. I didn't retain everything from the first week to the second, but I did remember about half the class, and picked up the other half again in week 2. By week 3, I know everyone's names.

We all tell ourselves and each other that we are terrible with names. I hear it often, from just about everyone. So being terrible with names is not some defect as such, unless it's a defect that every single one of us shares. What if we started speaking about it positively instead?

There was no trick or pattern to the way I retained names. As people went around the circle introducing themselves and answering some questions, I repeated the names in my head, mentally pointing to each person as I went. I went forwards and backwards around the circle while they spoke, paying more attention to my name memorisation than the personal stories. I tried skipping every second person so I wasn't just retaining a sequence, I associated names with facial characteristics or life stories if I could. I didn't have a great system, just repetition. The only thing I needed in week 2 for the names I forgot was a reintroduction. It's just another form of lines to learn, I say.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now if only every time I met someone, we all stopped for 15 minutes so everyone could talk about themselves a bit.
PPS - I may require another strategy for everyday life.