Curling, End2

After a bit of hemming and hawing, it appears that the gang is all in for the $50, 4 day curling class at the Norfolk Curling Club. I have to say, I keep thinking about my last throw in the last game, which didn't have quite the right spin to go where it should have gone. However, other than that, it was a good throw. It would have been nice to get a few more shots after that to understand what I did wrong, and how to do it better.

Given how aweful the last winter was down here in terms of being able to get out and do anything, curling might actually be a fun new hobby to pick up.

Curling... Freaking Sweet

Sunday was a day of adventure. After a bit of cajoling from the local gang, I tagged along to the curling open house at the Norfolk Curling Club, which was about a 1.5 hour trek from Poughkeepsie.

We arrived at 1:30, a bit before the open house officially started, and soon found ourselves in an incredibly crowded lodge, as apparently more than a few people got the Curling fever during the recent Olympics.

The first hour on the ice was mostly doing little drills, which was interesting, but got repetitive quickly. We eventually left the ice so that others could have a change. However, after being inside for about 10 minutes Pyg aptly noticed that part of the court had freed up, and maybe we could get some more time out there.

After a few rounds of throwing stones, I decided to grab a broom and see if I could manage this sweeping thing. That presented a couple of new challenges. There was the challenge of running the whole court after the stone without falling on your butt, the challenge of sweeping with great vigor, without falling, and the challenge of hearing the difference between the words "sweep" and "up" from the skip at the far end while the din of stones moving across the ice, and while concentrating hard on the not falling part. I only screwed up the not falling part once, but that can be excused, as while I was managing running on the ice, and sweeping hard pretty well, the addition of trying to avoid stepping on the kid that fell in front of me was the straw that broke the camel's back. Anyway, after about 30 minutes of that I'd had quite a nice aerobic workout.

And then, the really cool part happened. It was about 4:15, and people kept peeling off the ice (I was about ready to hang up my broom after tiring from sweeping). One of the guys from the club noticed that there we 6 of us left out there, Jay, Pyg, and I, plus 3 high school kids that seemed to know each other, so he asked if we wanted to play a real game.

All I can say is... FREAKING AWESOME. My lack of throwing practice clearly showed itself, however the fact that I actually spent time learning sweeping technique helped a bit. We played 2 ends, with the guy from the club playing skip for both of us and giving us advice. In the end we lost 2 to 1, through a nice knockout on the hammer by the other team.

All in all, a very fun experience. If you ever have a chance to try it, do!

Funny Grading Stories

I came across this on Science Blogs.

A question from yesterday's final exam, paraphrased slightly:

Element X decays into Element Y with a half-life of 30 minutes. You are given a sample containing three times as many atoms of Y as X. If the initial sample was pure X, how long ago was it prepared?

One student wrote:

It seems like a lifetime ago...

All hail the super earth!

A new planet has been discovered, and it turns out that "these icy super-Earths are pretty common. Roughly 35 percent of all stars have them."

Wow! 1/3 of all stars have super earths. I still remember the utter amazement when in high school the first extra solar planet was found, even though it was around a pulsar, so any life would have been blasted off of it long ago. Now we're over 170 extra solar planets found.

Just awesome.

Yet more fun with RSS, rssbot

More and more IRC has has basically become a dashboard for me. Most of what I need to know goes on in it, and most of the technical conversations I have are based in there. Especially given that the 2 main tools I use, mercurial and moinmoin, have rss feeds, it becomes even more sensible to have that information feed right into IRC as well.

So after spending a couple hours understanding POE (which is an event model for Perl much like Twisted is for Python), and the IRC and RSS sample code that goes along with it, I created a simple rssbot for the mhvlug IRC channel. It's mostly working at this point, though I'm going to clean it up a bit and add a config file over the next few days before publishing it.

POE is definitely a much better place to start experimenting with IRC bits that I was thinking about before. And it was fun to write an IRC bot from scratch in 3 hours. 🙂

Gnome Sort

While search the NIST Algorithms Dictionary for a simple sort algorithm that would be easy to write in CUSP asm, I came across gnome sort, which I'd never seen before.

Gnome Sort is based on the technique used by the standard Dutch Garden Gnome (Du.: tuinkabouter). Here is how a garden gnome sorts a line of flower pots. Basically, he looks at the flower pot next to him and the previous one; if they are in the right order he steps one pot forward, otherwise he swaps them and steps one pot backwards. Boundary conditions: if there is no previous pot, he steps forwards; if there is no pot next to him, he is done.

Awesome! The implementation is 23 instructions in CUSP asm for an arbitrary segment of continous memory.

Friends Abroad

One of the great things about going to school at a place like Wesleyan, is that your friends end up in very interesting, very different parts of the world. For instance, Jehan randomly IMed me this morning with news of his sold out show in the UK. Unfortunately the site is just one big flash application, so links within it aren't very useful, but here is a review.