Monthly Archives: April 2007

Literally programming my holidays

This year I asked my boss for having 3 weeks of holidays in August. I got it, and the idea was spending 1 week in Alicante (I can’t miss Elche’s festivals). For the other 2 weeks, a trip to somewhere in Europe could be nice.

UK from a satellite view (NASA)The first idea I had was an interesting option to combine three things: traveling in Europe, practicing English and playing Go. I wanted to participate in the Isle of Man Go Congress, which is a Go event, held during a week in the remote Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea, where I’m sure I’m not going to find any Spaniards (which is better if I pretend to speak only in English). A Go tournament in the mornings, and events and trips in the evenings. I was looking forward to this, but unluckly I discovered they organize it only every 2 years. What a shame! 🙁

So, I have to activate “plan B”, which is taking my backpack and visit some cities in UK, trying to visit some Go clubs (for socializing and, of course, playing). It could be interesting to spend a couple of days in each city. The problem is how can I optimize my trip, to visit a lot of cities, and to enjoy meeting with the local Go players?

Luckily, I discovered a map (based on Google maps) in the British Go Association website, with information of a lot of clubs, including the meeting day. The best thing is that, to feed the map with info, they have created an XML file with clever marks for every chunk of info. Excellent!

So, having that dataset, I only need to create a program (in fact, a modified version of the classical Salesman algorithm problem) that calculates the better route: which cities to visit, without traveling a lot of Km, and playing Go every 2 days (at least)… let’s see how my computer suggests my holidays!

What are you doing for Earth Day?

FlickrBlog has reminded me that today is Earth Day, with a post including a precious quote:

“May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.” United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, March 21, 1971

Columbus behind the city wallToday is a nice sunny day in Barcelona. This morning I played a Go game on KGS (a huge win) and then I took my bike to do some riding around MontjuĂŻc mountain (the complete route). I started going down on the Paral·lel’s bike path, arriving to Columbus’ statue, and later turning “up” to the mountain. I discovered the city council swimming pool, with a really nice view of the city, which was used as the background for the Barcelona’92 olympic games diving competition: I remember images of the athletes twisting in the air with the Sagrada Familia as the background. I continued my route, crossing the mountain… feeling happy.

Using a bike is a really ecological option, fun, healthy and clean. I use it most days, for going to the office (the other days I go by bus). Some people dislike riding a bike, thinking they are too old or too lazy. Come on, I’ve seen elderly people riding (better than me!), and it’s a really straightforward vehicle to make city displacements, faster than car and more relaxed (because you don’t need to go fast, you can just enjoy the trip).

A new green tableUse energy-saver light bulbs. There are some deal packs at Ikea. And do some recycling, which means not only waste dividing. Reuse old things. Don’t throw them away: try to have a second thought, and put some creativity on it. With a little DIY you can reinvent old things (like the table in the picture).

Finally, if you have to install an O.S. in your computer, choose Ubuntu. It installs quicker and easier than any other O.S. (including Windows), and is really reliable… with the energy savings it means. [Here I must confess my fault: I’m trying to install Debian, with the problems of having a Firewire DVD reader, which means days working on it, and it’s still not operative :-/]

Is our calendar the best calendar? (2 of 2)

If you have read the previous post (an introduction for what a calendar is), you might’ve thought our current calendar is good enough. Maybe. It’s quite good adjusting our year to the real Earth-Sun revolution. But it’s a bad tool, in usability terms.

Let me show you a couple of examples…
– On which day of the week were you born? Tuesday maybe? There is no easy rule to solve this.
– Why do we have to get a new calendar (paper) every new year? It’s stupid (except if you buy paper calendars due to the girls pictures).

The problem is the day of the week displacement.

Can you imagine the waste of time (and paper) this problem makes? It’s probably bigger (in economical terms) than the save of energy from the daylight saving time.

I found at the end of the article (commented in the previous post) a possible alternative… “the Mundial Calendar”. Mundial Calendar
Here it is.

This could be our new calendar… forever.

All years could have the same calendar, just the same! A single date always have the same day of week. Even it could be memorised at school, like multiply tables. Perfect weeks and perfect quarters (all with an exact number of 91 days).

The idea is to have 4 months with 31 days, and the rest with 30 days. This sums 364 days. For reaching the usual number of days (365), we introduce “the day of the year“, a holiday inserted at the end of every year, without an assigned day of week. And for the leap year (i.e. the old 29th of February), a “leap day” could be inserted (using the classical rule) between some Summer months (for less disruption of business), also without an assigned day of week.

Maybe the catholic church is not going to be happy with this, but it could be an incredible improvement for mankind. Anyway, the catholic church is not as strong as one millenium ago, or 5 centuries ago (when they decided to kill every single person who says “Sun is the center of our system”).

What do you think? I think it’s a wise option not to leave ignored.

Is our calendar the best calendar? (1 of 2)

Of course, it’s not.

One year ago, I was speaking with a funny google engineer (while I was visiting in Zurich) who commented about the idea of creating days with 28 hours. That reminded me of an old article I read some years ago in an astronomy magazine about our calendar, and the problems it has… Last night I found it, while looking for some old stuff to read before sleeping…

Firstly, what is a calendar? It’s a tool to mark the days within a year. We have some natural cycles that rule our lives: the days and nights, the Moon’s phases and the seasons (i.e. the movement of the Earth around the Sun). Our ancestors created the first calendar, putting in relation the days and the moon’s phases. Later they discovered it was more interesting to estimate the seasons (to know when they must do all the harvesting). They roughly adapted a moon calendar to a sun one, and later they fixed it, from time to time.

StonehengeThe big problem to solve when you create a calendar is the fact that a revolution of the Earth around the Sun has not an exact number of days, but it is 365.24219 days (and this number slightly changes between milleniums). For overcoming this problem, somebody invented the intercalation of days (for example, the famous February 29th): a way to approximate the calendar to the real nature behaviour. Otherwise, the accumulation of the decimals shift over some decades could make that a Summer solstice happens in November, for example.

Our calendar was designed in the Council of Nicaea, in 325 BC !! A millenium later, Pope Gregory XIII, ordered to fix some problems, mainly a shift of 10 days, but the basic rule of leap years remained in essence: “a February 29th must be inserted every four years, except if the year is multiple of 100, except if the year is multiple of 400”. With this rule, the error is only 4 seconds per year (i.e. a day shift after 21000 years). A rule with a cycle of 400 years.

For the last 2 milleniums, the catholic church has controlled our calendar, among other things. Meanwhile some wise authors have suggested modifications, trying to improve it. Like the persian astronomer Oman Kayyam (1048-1131) who invented a rule with a cycle of 128 years and less error than Nicaea-Gregorian’s rule (a day shift after 50000 years)… but it was ignored.

The question is: do we need a new calendar?

The eye can be tricked: counting ball passes

Scared eye This evening I was speaking with my cousin, and one of her comments reminded me of an interesting video about visual perception, that I saw sometime ago. It was hard to find again, but finally here it is…

The TASK: Look at the video, there are some people playing with basket balls… you must COUNT all the passes they do.

The video (it takes a while to load)

After this, come back here, and open the first comment, to see if you are good at counting.