Archive for July, 2010

Wednesday Wii – Train Your Brain 2

July 28, 2010

In an earlier post I talked about how the exercises you do on the Wii Fit are essentially training your internal neural net system to coordinate your balance – managing inputs from your balance organs (eyes, inner ear,¬†kinesthetic sense) so that the outputs, from your muscles, keep you standing – and that you test the effectiveness of this training by using the Body Test. That said, it is usually a mistake to do additional training on the test sets. It’s like teaching to the test in elementary school. I make two exceptions to this rule.

First, is the Single Leg Balance Test. This exercise is so fundamental to the operation of your balance system that if you were to train only on this you would likely get as much benefit as you do from any of the other balance exercises. Plus, it’s a simple test, and you either can do it or you can’t. There are no tricks to learn. ¬†It’s not like the Prediction Test, where you can memorize the pattern of the barriers, so you are not learning some new technique to beat the test.

Second, is that I misuse the Peripheral Vision Test to make up for one of the failings of the Wii Fit. You see, while the ability to stand up straight is important, none of the regular exercises teach you to do this. They all base their scoring on how you are standing when the test starts. So if you happen to be leaning left when the Deep Breathing exercise starts, returning to an upright position as the test progesses will move your pipper to the right side of the yellow circle, and lower your score. This is, unfortunately, also true of some of the tests — the Stand Vewy Vewy Still test centers itself on how you were standing when the test started, for example. But there are some tests that are based on an absolute measure of standing straightedness, and therefore offer a chance to train yourself in what it feels like to do it. Periodically, I run the PVT, and just stand there, working on keeping the pipper inside the little circle. That gives me 33seconds of training. It also gives me a zero on the test, but that’s OK, since it only counts when officially given as part of a Body Test.

End Note: These days I mostly use a preset routine in My Wii Fit to go through my exercises. That’s OK, but it doesn’t let me track my progress. So I have decided to periodically do a standard run-through and post the results here. This time I ran 17 exercises, with an average score of 77.5 and a standard deviation of 17.2. Four of the scores got me into the top ten, and there was one new personal best.

The Afghan Reports

July 26, 2010

The big news from AF is, of course the Wikileaks…leak. Reactions to the leak generally fall into two categories. The regular newspaper reporting (OMG, casualties!) is one. Pat Lang’s blog (so what’s new?) is typical of the other.

As Lang says, it’s a compilation of the daily message traffic from one of the NATO HQs in AF. I make it about 40 or so messages per day for six years. That’s probably 20% of the actual reporting. In my VN days I had to go through tons of stuff like this to produce the daily INTSUM. Most of it is operational reporting of the kind that goes on all the time in a war. The big change since VN is that we have kept refining (i.e. adding on) what kind of reports need to go up the chain and when they have to be reported. We could call it a tsunami, but the waters never recede.

Mixed in with the opreps are various Intelligence reports. For those not familiar with the genre, the quality of any given report can vary wildly. The few I looked at didn’t use the evaluation system I grew up with (quality of source A-F, quality of info 1-8), but most would probably be rated F-8 (unknown quality, truth not verifiable). This has always been the case. There is a very low signal to noise ratio in these reports. That’s what contributes to the various ‘Intelligence failures’ through the years. Sources report stuff because they want to be seen as hard working, or friendly, or useful. Intelligence officers pass even the bad reports on because they don’t want to be the one who missed a bit of the jigsaw, because regulations require it, because they know they can’t see the whole picture but maybe someone else can. Sturgeon’s law applies. Added note: It’s the job of the higher level “all source” analyst to bring together this human resource based intelligence (HUMINT) with imagery (IMINT), and signals intelligence (SIGINT) to try to make a coherent whole out of the hash.

One commenter, Londonstani, over at Abu Muqawama, had an interesting take: it’s not that the information is new, it’s the form in which it is presented. He compares it to last year’s UK’s MP expense account scandal. When people said MPs were greedy, everybody said “So? They’re politicians”, but when the press outed the details (“duckhouses and flatscreen televisions”), there was a public opinion explosion. The same may happen here.

I have no idea how this will play out. I think we should be out of AF, and I think we missed a bet by not bailing after last year’s rigged election. I think it would be unfortunate if we were driven from AF in such a way that the right wing interventionists can claim we were stabbed in the back by public opinion. Not because we don’t need that lesson – we should have learned it in VN, but didn’t (Sometimes history doesn’t repeat itself. Sometimes it picks up a club and says “Weren’t you listening the first time?” – Pratchett). Maybe it will stick this time. No, my fear is that it will cripple Obama’s ability to function on the domestic front, which is where the action is really needed.

Wednesday Wii – Wii Trips

July 14, 2010

So I was off at the GECCO 2010 conference in Portland all last week. Portland is my favoritist city in all the world. It has many good restaurants, and superb beer, all within crawling distance of the hotel. Since most days the con events didn’t start until 8:30, I had time in the morning to exercise, but no Wii Fit to do it on. Turns out, the exercises don’t require the Wii Fit board, but they do feel funny without it.

I took a list of my normal routine exercises, all 22 of them. Running through them in the privacy of my hotel room was easy, except that the wall mounted mirrors kept reminding me of how far I had to go. Not having that 1.5″ step platform changed the dynamic a little on some of the exercises, but was mostly not noticeable. Of course, if you don’t use the board you lose the timing and balance cues, and if you normally use the exercise part instead of the routines you also lose the post-exercise evaluations. I even did the Triceps Extension exercise, using the two $1.50 water bottles they had set out for me. Plus, I was able to go a little faster than usual, since I didn’t have to wait for mechano-coach to reboot each time (and I may have quick-counted some of the exercises). That, and a mile or so of walking to the neighborhood pubs (and Powells!) gave me more exercise than I normally get at home.

I still gained eight pounds.


July 11, 2010

Just back from the Genetic and Evolutionary Computing COnference. Whole buncha stuff that’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. As soon as the ideas stop fizzing in my head I’ll write some things down for y’all.


July 4, 2010

About two months ago, my PC started making noise. Now, there’s only four things in a PC with moving parts – the hard drive, the DVD, the CPU fan, and the power supply fan. This time it was the power supply fan, spinning up and down, intermittently. So either the fan was wonky, or the power supply was having problems. It’s a three year old System76 setup, built around an ASUS E2489 box. My choices were to order a new power supply, or order a new PC. Well, duh.

It came in last week. Another System76 system, with 8GB of memory and 4×2.7GHz cores and a Western Digital 750MB drive running Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid. Not nearly cutting edge, but twice or three times the computer I had before, and for about the same price — thank you Gordon Moore. It’s a big box, with lots of room for more drives. I was busy for a couple of days, but finally this weekend I had the time to sit down and make the switch.

Changeover was relatively simple, but it’s one of those things that you have to relearn each time. I started out by moving files to my NAS, and then to the new box, because for some reason it couldn’t see the other PCs on the network. Rebooting helped – I think it just hadn’t had time to figure out where it was. Then I ran into the feared and hated permissions problem. If I sit on the old box and push stuff to the new box, it comes over with my existing permissions, and the new box doesn’t believe that Me_new is the same as Me_old. OTOH, if I started on the new box and pulled the stuff from the old box, it worked fine. Go figure.

There actually wasn’t much to move. My home directory stuff (which I did one subdirectory at a time), and my mail (Evolution lets you .tar up the entire setup, move to the new box, and tell that copy of Evo to ‘restore from backup’). A quick google gave me the info I needed to move Firefox over, just a few files, but I did have to reinstall my plugins (QuickNote and Translitorator, for working with Japanese).

Moving Opera meant going into Help/About, where they list the directory locations of all the critical files (why can’t everybody do that?). The only issue there was that it brought all my RSS feeds over (I have something in excess of 100 of them), but didn’t list them as ‘subscribed’. I kept wondering why nothing was updating. When I finally figured it out, I ended up having to resubscribe, then kill all the (3K or so) updated entries. That took probably half an hour, mostly because I had feed entries that were over a week old that I had promised myself I’d read, and those ended up mixed in with the updates.

As far as I can see, the only thing I need to do now is reinstall the DVD player software not provided by Ubuntu.

Only one anomaly so far. I left the system on overnight, with Opera and Evolution and Firefox open. The screen saver is set for 30min, and it works fine, but it seems to turn off with the least tremor of the mouse, like from a passing truck. So when I came in this morning, the screen was alight, and I could see my apps. Before touching the PC I walked over and turned on a light in the opposite corner of the room, and when I turned back, all (as in ALL) of the apps were gone. Ubuntu was still running, and everything started back up just fine, but one wonders.