Econstudentlog

What I’ve been reading

a) The Garden of Rama

b) Rama Revealed

both by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

c) Perestrojka

(in Danish) by Michail Gorbachev

I highly recommend the Rama series which also includes Rendezvous with Rama and Rama II, both of which I read some years ago. I have a very hard time remembering precisely why I did not complete the series back then, but it probably has something to do with the fact that I got (and still get) most of my fiction writing from used book shops – if the store doesn’t have the whole series I will often just read something else and get back to it eventually. Sometimes ‘eventually’ means ‘years later’, it’s not the first time (for example I read the first part of LOTR in the 9th grade and the last part in senior high)…

I shall discuss Gorbachev in a post in Danish later on.

February 21, 2008 Posted by | books, history, science fiction | Leave a comment

Et parti

Jeg har ikke gjort det før, men fandt at jeg da lige så godt kunne dele analysen med dem, der gider læse den. Herunder følger et fuldt parti jeg spillede i weekenden, ti minutters betænkningstid hver, såvel som efterfølgende analyse. Kommentarer og alternative varianter i paranteser, selve partiet med fed skrift. Tag brættet frem og spil med, det var et rigtig godt parti. Hvis du ikke har lært at læse skaknotation (er der folk der ikke kan det?) er der hjælp at hente her. Hvis du ikke ejer et spil skak, så har jeg medlidenhed med dig 😉

Jeg spillede sort, here goes:

1.e4 … Nf6,
2.e5 … Nd5,
3.Nc3 … Nxc3,
4.dxc3 … d6,
5.Nf3 … Bg4,
6.Bf4 … Nc6,
7.Bb5 … Bd7
(jeg har ikke spillet Alekhine ret mange gange, og det er ekstremt sjældent folk afviger fra hovedvarianten med c4, d4 og evt. et efterfølgende f4 efterfulgt af kort rokade – det skinner igennem her, at positionen er ny for mig. Jeg brød mig umiddelbart ikke om den stillingsstruktur, der ville opstå efter 7…a6, 8.Bxc6 … bxc6, 9.h3 … Bh4, men efterfølgende kan jeg ikke rigtig finde ud af, hvad jeg havde imod den – løberparret og spillet i den halvåbne b-linje giver vel tilstrækkelig kompensation, sort er i hvert fald tæt på at have udlignet her),
8.Qe2 … e6,
9.0-0-0 … d5,
10. c4 … a6,
11.cxd5 …axb5,
12.dxc6 …bxc6,
13.Kb1 … Be7
(trækket er i retrospekt alt for passivt. Computeren siger 13 … Qc1. Efter 14.Rd3 og tårndublering i d-linjen efterfulgt af Bg5 kunne sort let være havnet i alvorlige problemer ved upræcist spil, dronningen er for langt væk til at hjælpe til i defensiven),
14.Nd4 … Ra6,
15.h4 … Qa8,
16.Nb3
(jeg havde håbet på 16.a3. Herefter følger naturligvis …b4! med ligeledes stærkt angreb for sort) 16… Rxa2,
17.Qd2 … Bc8,
18.Bg5
(selvom trækket ser ’aktivt’ ud, er det det næppe. Trækket giver sort mulighed for at forbinde tårnene uden at rokere, og efter hvids lyse løber er væk, er f7 langt fra det værste sted at stille kongen, især efter h4 er spillet) 18… f6,
19.exf6 … gxf6,
20.Be3 … Kf7,

sk2.jpg

21.Qe2 … h5,
22.g4 … e5,
23.gxh5 … c5
(Bf5!),
24.Qxb5 … Be6,

sk3.jpg

25. Kc1? … c4!,
26.Nc5 … Ra1+
(Rb8! Jeg opdager aldrig hvor udsat den hvide dronning er. 26…Bxc5, 27.Qxc5 fulgt af det ’stille’ Qb7 er også afgørende),
27.Kd2 … Rd8+ (comp. foretrækker stadig løberafbytning først; 27… Bxc5, 28.Qxc5 … Rd8+, 29. Kc3 (29.Ke1?? … Qxh1+ med mat), men Kc3 er også nødvendig uden løberafbytningen, og det her er alligevel en af de stillinger, hvor ’næsten alt vinder’)
28.Bd4?? (Hvids stilling bryder totalt sammen nu: Fritz går fra omkring -2.5 til -15. Game over. Begyndende tidnød var en medvirkende årsag, min modstander havde brugt en farlig tid på de sidste par træk, men det var ikke et træk i ‘sidste øjeblik’; han havde stadig over et minut tilbage på klokken, og han havde brugt 20 sekunder af den tid, han havde tilbage, på at finde det absolut værste træk. Hverken første eller sidste gang den slags sker. 28.Kc3 er eneste chance, men det leder stadig til et objektivt set tabt slutspil, eksempelvis: 28.Kc3 … Raxd1, 29.Rxad1 … Rxd1, 30.Nxe6 … Kxe6, 31.Qxc4+ … Qd5, 32. Qxc7 … Bd6, 33. Qc8+ … Ke7)

sk4.jpg

28… Rxd4+,
29.Nd3 … Rxd1+,
30.Rxd1 … Qf3
(jeg vil gerne have dronningen med i angrebet! Der er varianter nok at vælge imellem her: 30 … Bd7! fanger dronningen, og …cxd3! leder, finder jeg vha. Fritz ud af, til forceret mat i 9, eksempelvis; 31.h6 … dxc2+, 32.Kxc2 … Qe4+, 33.Kc1 … Qf4+, 34.Kc2 … Qxf2+, 35.Kc1 … Qe3+, 36.Kc2 … Bf5+, 37.Rd3 … Bxd3+, 38.Qxd3 … Qxd3, 39. Kc1 … Rf4++),
31. Rf1 … cxd3,
32.cxd3 … Bb4+,
33.Kc2 … Qe2+,
34. Kb1 … Qxf1+,
35. Kc2 … Qe2+,
36. Kb1 … Qd1++

0-1

Et rigtig godt parti.

February 12, 2008 Posted by | skak | Leave a comment

What I’ve been reading

The fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.

I am, very fittingly, going ‘back in time’ as I had only read the novel Endymion from the series until now (people who have read the books will understand). I must admit I was a bit disappointed; Endymion is in my opinion a much better novel. According to some people, so is the predecessor, Hyperion.

I have two main problems with the book [if you want to avoid SPOILERS in the following, read the bold part and leave the rest]:

a) Far too much is going on with far too many people.

A classic: There are way too many people in this book and they experience a lot of stuff in a very short amount of time. The result is that we don’t care as much about what happen to them as we ought to. We met most of them in Hyperion too, but this book has to be judged independently as I have not read Hyperion yet, and also if it cannot stand on its own, well that’s a problem. Even if I get the sense that he tries from time to time, Simmons just never really gets to me, the story is much too confused and fast-paced. For instance we follow Fedmahn Kassad for a relatively long time, but after several chapters with him his death still touches me about as much as the death of Arnold Schwarzenegger in an action movie from the 80’es would have. Simmons also manages to pretty much destroy two whole planets without beforehand following just one of the people who get killed for any significant amount of time. Billions of people die and we just don’t care, for we didn’t know any of them. And we’re not even really expected to care, are we?

b) Deliberate vagueness. There’s much too much of it.

Even if we don’t get close to the people involved, neither do we get to the bottom of much else. A lot of things, including but certainly not only the ‘how stuff works’ part, are left deliberately vague. For example, in the end of the novel the AI’s sever the fatlines. Suddenly after more than 500 pages we learn that the fatlines and the datasphere are connected, even if no such link had been hinted at before. Yes, one might argue that it makes sense that the humans were not aware of just how powerful the AI’s had become, and this is a good way of illustrating it, but … Ouster technology allowed the use of fatlines too, even if no link existed between Ouster worlds and the AI’s of the Core. So assuming the Ousters were right about their own state of affairs, and we have no reason to do otherwise, they had nothing to do with the Core but they still had fatlines. Thus the question that needs answering is this: Where does the AI control over the fatlines of the (now former) Hegemony come from? To put it bluntly, we haven’t got a clue. And neither does the author – or so it seems to me.

[END OF SPOILERS]

Don’t misunderstand me: SF-writers are allowed to be vague on some technical matters, but we need to know that they have some idea what’s going on; sometimes, like in the example above, Simmons actually made me question whether he himself had any idea ‘how stuff works’ in his own universe. In short, it’s fine if some of the characters do not understand all the technological facets (…could you explain to me, briefly, how a combustion engine works?), but for me to be convinced, the author needs to convince me that there’s at least a rough model somewhere explaining what is going on. I doubt such a model exists here and this is a major setback. It’s just not convincing enough for me to believe.

All these things said, I did read the book to the end, and I never do that if the book is not worth it. If you like a fast-paced (soft) sci-fi action/adventure epic novel – go for it! If you do not, it’s probably still worth reading – but…

February 11, 2008 Posted by | books, science fiction | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

What’s amazing is this urge to take the slogans of the various parties, clans, mafias, banditti, liberation fronts, etc, and treat them as at least the first draft of “what they’re fighting for.”

People fight because they expect to win, or think they have at least a reasonable chance of winning. “Winning” can mean a lot of things, but presumably it involves an increased level of either money, power or both. Of course the leaders are elites – this is more or less a tautology.

World peace 101: if you want to stop people from fighting, make it clear to them that they won’t win.

I suppose the approach of actually listening to what people say is better than the “social justice” theory. But you have to realize that when you’re starting from a point of complete detachment from reality, a small improvement doesn’t do you much good.

‘Mencius’, from a comment here. Kasparov makes a related point in the youtube video I linked to earlier today: Don’t look into Putin’s eyes to figure out what he wants – look at his record.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | quotes | 1 Comment

Et argument for introduktionen af ‘økonomiske principper’ som obligatorisk fag på ungdomsuddannelserne

Her.

Prioritering – smag lige på ordet. Er vi virkeligt blevet så selvoptagede, at vi tænker så meget på boligskatter og solferier, at medmenneskeligheden er gået fløjten?

[…]

Selvom det [statsfinansierede vacciner mod livmoderhalskræft] ikke giver et overskud i sidste ende – hvordan skal vi så prioritere – menneskeliv eller penge?

‘Hvordan skal vi så prioritere – menneskeliv eller penge’ – mand, er jeg glad for den fyr ikke er sundhedsminister…

February 2, 2008 Posted by | tradeoffs | Leave a comment

Hugo Chavez on Facebook

Here is one guess how that profile might look like.

I love the fact that they’ve included an image of the clown monster from It. I’d probably have added Darth Vader on the list of top friends too…

HT: Angus from Mungowitzend.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | random stuff | Leave a comment