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Random Thoughts

29 Feb 2004

wangwi go open, day 2

day 2 of the go tournament started at 10am, which meant i lost my precious precious designated sleep-in day. i refused to sit down at a goban without my caffeine fix, so i wound up driving around the dvp-eglinton area for about 20 minutes looking for a tim horton's, before finally finding one on lawrence just east of the dvp. the nice thing about go tournaments is that there is no punishment for being late. the only penalty is that the clock starts ticking at 10am, and getting there late means that you lose that amount of time off your play clock. i didn't mind losing 10 minutes off my play clock for a large double-double.

naturally, round 4 is already under way when i finally get to the korean cultural centre. the tournament pairing indicates that i'm paired against a 4-dan, which is no big deal. then i notice that there is no number under the "handicap" column, which is strange because as a 2-dan, i should get a 2-stone handicap against a 4-dan. assuming that there is some kind of mistake, i bring this to the attention of the tournament organizer. he laughs and he says: "well, you played good yesterday and your opponent played not-so-good yesterday. so we believe this should be an even match".

i was in disbelief. "i even have to give komi?"

"yes, 6.5 komi" said the tournament organizer.

hearing that, my jaw dropped. trepidation started to set in as i knew i didn't have much chance against a 4-dan in an even game. knowing i was outclassed, i decided i would put forth my best effort and lose honorably. yes, i lost by 19.5, but i was very satisfied with the game that i played. i felt that had i managed to avoid some blunders, i would have had a reasonable shot at winning. my opponent helped alleviate the sting of the loss somewhat by complimenting me on my effort. this loss effectively eliminated my chances of winning my division.
round 4: W+19.5

i sat at the same board, going over the round 4 game for about 30 minutes, trying to figure out where i went wrong and what i could have made differently. before i knew it, round 5 was underway. i was matched against a very kind korean gentleman who was 1-dan. unfortunately, he made a mistake early on in a joseki which more or less ended the game. unlike my round 3 game, though, this match was quite entertaining.
round 5: W+22.5

having wrapped up the round 5 win quickly, i had time for lunch before round 6, and when i got back, ciro dropped by the tournament to say hi and wish me good luck. thanks for visiting ciro! he then played some of the other participants in the tournament, but unfortunately, as a 24-kyu, there weren't too many players at his level at the tournament, so he wound up playing a 13-kyu who wiped him off the board. poor ciro.

on to round 6 against, yet again, another kind korean gentleman, who was 3-dan. this was going to be quite a serious challenge, and i thought it would be embarrassing to lose with ciro watching, so that added to the pressure. thankfully i managed to put together my most complete game of the tournament and won by 9.5 points. my opponent congratulated me and told me that he was looking forward to playing me again next year in an even match. i look forward to our rematch.
round 6: B+9.5

finishing with 4 wins and 2 losses, i knew i wouldn't finish in the top 3 in my division. but i stayed for the prize ceremony, hoping to win at least a door prize. and amazingly, i did! i won a set of tupperware from ikea, which i plan to share with my co-workers at work.

my performance in this tournament did, however, raise one question: should i register in the next tournament as 3-dan? i'll have 6 weeks to think about it ...

28 Feb 2004

wangwi go open, day 1

after the now-usual early saturday morning routine of stumbling out of bed and somehow making it to mandarin class only 5 minutes late, i headed to the 2004 wangwi open go tournament. once again, the korean organizers did a first-class job organizing the tournament, and there were free donuts, coffee and soft drinks for everyone. interestingly, there were only two 3-dans and two 2-dans (myself being one of the 2-dans), but tons of 1-dans and 4-dans. strange.

(note: to view the game records you will need an sgf viewer. try cgoban2, which you can download here.)

round 1 paired me against a 3-dan who i had played and defeated in the october tournament. it was a very strange opening and i proceeded to attempt to kill one of my opponent's groups. for some stupid reason i thought i was successful, but the group was actually alive in seki. i blindly played on for another 150 moves before realizing my mistake, and had to resign. this embarrassing game probably ranks right up there along with the others in my personal hall of shame.
round 1: W+Resign

in round 2 i played a 4-dan, taking 2 stones. i remembered losing to this opponent at the last tournament, and i was determined to put up a better fight this time. i followed the standard handicap strategy of maintaining the pressure and never letting white take the initiative, and it worked beautifully. with no opportunity for complications, white resigned in the endgame.
round 2: B+Resign

round 3 was utterly unremarkable as i was paired against a 1-dan who demonstrated very little aggression and fighting spirit. one could argue that he was unreasonably passive, waiting for me to take the action to him. the win was simple and methodical. although a win is a win, i don't enjoy games like this too much. games with complications and messy fights are so much more fun to play.
round 3: B+13.5 (sorry ... no game record is provided, but you aren't missing much)

so i finished day 1 with 2 wins and 1 loss.

26 Feb 2004

auto insurance; or How The Insurance Companies Screw Over The Average Driver

imagine for a moment that you live in a fictional place called Lontario ...

where adults of a certain age are permitted to play with a toy called a "Lar" (plural: "Lars"), provided that the adult passes a qualifying examination. Lars are fun to play with, and are, in fact, a necessary part of daily life for many people. however, if misused they can cause serious damage to property and other Lars.

the Lontario government quickly realized that there had to be some form of protection from litigation for users of Lars, because mishaps involving Lars occurred quite frequently and SOMEONE had to pay for the consequences, even though quite often it could be argued that neither of the Lar owners were at fault. furthermore, to promote safe usage of Lars, there would have to be some way of rewarding the good Lar users and punishing the bad Lar users.

thus, the government of Lontario asked the Lontario Mafia to propose a solution to this problem.

sadly, the Lontario Mafia didn't care about the people of Lontario, or who the good Lar users or bad Lar users were. all that the Lontario Mafia cared about was extracting as much money as possible from Lar users. having being granted this opportunity by the government, the Lontario Mafia devised a truly devilish scheme in order to maximize their profits, as follows.

the Lontario Mafia would extort, from each Lar user, an amount of money each month, which they called "protection services" (or "protection fees" for Lar users). indeed, extortion it was, because under the proposed scheme, the government of Lontario would make it illegal to use a Lar in Lontario without purchasing protection from the Mafia. moreover, only the Mafia would have the right to sell protection in Lontario - protection would not be available from anyone else. sure, Lar users could choose between different Mafia families from whom to purchase protection, but it was still the Mafia. just the base monthly price of protection services proposed by the Lontario Mafia would make it impossible for many Lontario citizens to use a Lar. naturally, protection fees would increase at about 5 times the rate of inflation per year for the average Lar user.

for those who purchased "protection services", the Lontario Mafia would cover damages in the event of a Lar mishap, but with the implicit understanding that anyone who appealed to the Mafia for financial relief after a Lar mishap would have his or her protection fees raised so high, for at least the next 6 years, that the Lar user would have been better off paying for the damages out of his or her own pocket in the first place.

second, the Lontario Mafia would not care whose fault it was when a Lar mishap occurred between two or more people. if a not-at-fault Lar user was foolish enough to ask the Mafia for financial relief after a mishap, the Mafia would send the poor Lar user's protection fees skyrocketing just the same.

third, there wasn't even justice for the safest Lar users who had perfect Lar operation histories and zero total mishaps. the Mafia proposed to increase the protection fees of even this select group of Lar users by making far-fetched claims such as "the rating classification group of your Lar has changed; therefore your protection fees have increased".

for some reason, the government of Lontario deemed this proposal by the Lontario Mafia satisfactory and it became law shortly thereafter ...

22 Feb 2004

hikaru no go finally available in canada!

there's a Go tournament coming up this weekend and i'm probably going to participate in it. i still remember, with fondness, thanksgiving sunday during the 2003 korean open tournament when i experienced an amazing rush, being totally focused on my game like never before and feeling like i couldn't be beat. i haven't played a serious game in quite some time now, so maybe it would be a good idea to spend a little time this week getting the old juices flowing once again. i've been stuck at CGA 2-dan for about a year now, but i haven't made any serious effort to increase my strength. hmm, maybe i should set a goal for myself and try to reach 3-dan by the end of this year.

speaking of go, i was in chapters this past weekend and i saw the march issue of shonen jump on the newsstands. and guess what, they've got hikaru no go in there! it's great to see this amazing story finally get published officially outside of japan (a few years back, we hng-addicts had to rely on unofficial subtitles and translations) and i recommend anyone who is interested in go or anime to take a look at hng. interestingly, i never liked manga or anime before hng, but once the translations from japanese were made available on the web, i downloaded and read all 189 manga episodes and 75 anime episodes. be warned: you may become a hng addict too!

18 Feb 2004

good thing there was only one other person in the gym at that time

today was cleaning day. i, the master procrastinator, had tried to put this off as long as possible, but i finally had to clean my washroom today as it was really getting icky. i guess when you live by yourself, you can't really blame anyone else for messing up your pristine kingdom. there! now there's a wonderful pine-fresh scent coming from the washroom, but my back aches from all the scrubbing.

yesterday i did something really stupid but i guess that's nothing new. i went to the gym and decided, for some crazy reason, to see just how long i could jog on the treadmill, my previous best having been 20 minutes. so i started jogging, and i hit the 20 minute mark and nothing felt wrong, my chest wasn't burning and i felt like i was in a zone. so i kept going and going. even after 40 minutes, i felt great. finally, after passing the 45 minute mark, i decided to stop even though i could have kept on going. strangely, only after i slowed down to a walking speed did i start to feel exhaustion. then, 5 to 10 minutes later, both of my achilles' tendons felt like they were on fire and i couldn't walk properly. i started to hobble around the gym looking like a complete fool. stretching the tendons and calves didn't help (it was probably too late at that point). somehow i managed to drive all the way home without stalling the car. as i type now, more than 24 hours after the incident, my groin, quadriceps, and of course those tendons, are still sore. yes boys and girls, there's a moral to be learned here but i'll let you figure it out for yourself.

lastly, aaron from the office, who sits in the cubicle beside me, is my new mandarin language consultant! he said he'll teach me a few new words each day ... all i need to do now is practice practice practice! zài jiàn!

14 Feb 2004

remembrance of international bitterness and loneliness day

you're probably wondering what the title of today's entry refers to. well, back in the late 90's at uw when the male:female ratio was 9:1, there were nowhere near enough girls for all the guys. so each year, the masses of single men who couldn't get a date for valentine's day (no, i wasn't one of the lucky ones!) started referring to the dreaded annual love-fest by the name above.

anyways, after mandarin class ended, i went to markville mall to check out the fares for a 3-night stay in vegas in mid-april. turns out that we can do everything, including the hotel, for under $800. i really have no idea whether this is a good deal or not and i'm curious to hear what francis has to say. vincent is going to check out some other travel agencies this week.

i then spent the rest of valentine's day with elisa, herman and lydia at first markham place, for a movie, bubble tea and finally hot pot. we spent a lot of time chatting, laughing and generally having a good time. it was a lot of fun.

12 Feb 2004

viva las vegas?

so i finally finished seiken densetsu 3 today, taking down the evil archdemon with lise, kevin and hawk (my characters) at level 48. yay! this game was, in my opinion, the best adventure rpg of the pre-32-bit era. even though the game was made in 1995, it doesn't feel old at all. hmm, now that i've finished the final game on my "to be played" list, it's time for me to retire from the video gaming scene. maybe someday, the game industry will return to its roots and game developers will actually make games instead of interactive movies. am i wishing for too much?

on another note, francis, vince and i are tentatively planning to spend a week in las vegas and los angeles in april. i'm really looking forward to this and i hope that it isn't too late to book hotels and flights! i can't believe it's only been 13 months since my last vacation.

07 Feb 2004

saturday now means ... getting up at 8:30am

my mandarin language classes started today! there are 7 people in the class. originally winston, elisa and wilson were hoping that we would be the only four people in the class, so we could have the instructor's undivided attention, but three more people walked in after the class had started. oh well. i think the course is going to be a lot of fun. the only downside is that the class starts at 10am, which means that i only get to sleep in on sundays now.

after the class ended i met my parents for lunch in scarborough. my mom kept saying that i should buy a condo and stop renting asap. then she insisted that we visit some new condo sales offices to check out units and stuff. i mean, i can understand that paying rent is a bad idea because the money isn't working for me. but buying a condo is a pretty big decision, and i don't want to rush into it. nor do i think i am ready to turn my life savings into a down payment. but she does make a good point. i certainly don't plan to live here in my apartment forever, but i don't think i'm ready to move into condo ownership just yet. maybe it's time to talk to a financial advisor.

02 Feb 2004

an amazing super bowl upstaged by ... its own halftime show?

interestingly we wound up at boston pizza (of all places) for super bowl sunday. originally we thought thomas was bringing along crystal (who is 6 months pregnant), which meant choosing a place which was 100% smoke free. so, that meant ruling out the usual bars and pubs like jack astor's. alright, to accommodate the boss and his wife we settled on boston pizza but the funny thing is, in the end, crystal didn't come. these married guys, i tell you. next thing you know, they'll refuse to go to restaurants without kids menus.

anyway i digress. super bowl xxxviii was easily the best sb i have ever seen. the game started as a tight defensive battle, and then all of a sudden it became a shootout. i liked how delhomme gave up on the running game with about 5 minutes to go in the second quarter and started relying more on his arm. his td throws were absolutely perfect. even though i was cheering for the pats, i had to tip my hat to carolina's effort. the back-and-forth offensive action in the fourth quarter was absolutely amazing, and the final drive by the pats ... wow.

of course, the general public won't remember this super bowl for the game itself. what happened at halftime was unfortunate, not because i was offended in the least, but because it took the spotlight away from what was, arguably, the best super bowl ever. (janet or justin's fault? i really don't care.)

and a warning to the football fans out there planning to visit jacksonville next winter: the last 4 even-numbered sb's were great games, but the last 3 odd-numbered ones were duds. here's predicting that sb xxxix is a blowout. remember, you heard it here first.

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