Thursday, 2016 November 17, 16:25 — psychology, spam

uncanny tedium

A month or two ago, the load of junkmail intercepted for me by Pobox suddenly jumped from about one hundred pieces a day to well over two hundred. (The difference, to judge by titles, consists of repeated pleadings from alleged horny women.)

I have long been in the habit of carefully searching the spam reports for false positives, typically finding one every 3–4 days. (Each of these is a mass-mailing to which I subscribed; I don’t recall if Pobox has ever held up genuine personal mail, though Gmail did, back when that was my primary mailbox.) Now that the burden of this chore has suddenly doubled, I find myself wishing Pobox would make more errors, to reward me.

I see an analogy with the uncanny valley phenomenon, and wonder whether anyone has tried to find a psychological optimum in error rates for problems like this.

I once read somewhere that a “teaser” toy for cats should let the cat catch the “prey” one time in six.

Sunday, 2016 June 19, 10:40 — history, religion

next time you hear someone blame Hitler on Darwin or atheism

Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist and opposed to Darwinism — long and thoroughly documented

Thursday, 2016 March 17, 13:28 — games

steam and circuitry

One of my favorite games is Ticket to Ride (despite its silly name), in which a strategic element is choosing tickets: pairs of cities to be joined. The value of a ticket is the length of the shortest path that could fulfill it.

It occurs to me that, if each segment of track is considered as a resistor, the resistance between two cities may be considered a measure of the difficulty of the ticket: you’re less likely to be blocked if redundant paths exist. One could then make a list of tickets ranked by payoff divided by resistance. But each move changes this: after a route is claimed, it has zero resistance for its owner and infinite resistance for others.

Your first act in the game is to choose two or more tickets from a draw of three or four or five; it’s not obvious how to apply this idea to find the most compatible set.

Monday, 2015 November 9, 23:54 — fandom, language, prose

pseudohistorical linguistics

I can’t remember how much I knew of Elvish languages before The Silmarillion, with a glossary, appeared in 1978. Can you tell from the text of The Lord of the Rings (not counting the Appendices) that Quenya and Sindarin are related? Are any words explicitly given in both?

Saturday, 2015 May 9, 19:24 — games, mathematics

alternate poker

Suppose your deck has more than four suits, or some number other than thirteen cards per suit. What happens to the ranks of poker hands?

              1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3
    5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2

 4  F F F * B B B * O O O A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A 
 5  F F F F F F F B B B B B O O A A A A A A A A A A A D D D 
 6  F F F F F F F F F F F B B B B B B A A D D D D D D D D D 
 7  F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F B C C C C E E D D D D D D 
 8  F F F F F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G C C C C C E E E D 
 9  F F F F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G C C C C E 
10  F F F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G 
11  F F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G
12  F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G
13  F F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G
14  F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G
15  F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G
16  F F F F F F F F F G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G G

O: the familiar case: straight flush > four of a kind > full house > flush > straight > three of a kind > two pair > one pair.
A: four > full house > straight > flush.
B: four > flush > full house > straight.
C: four > flush > straight > full house.
D: four > straight > full house > flush.
E: four > straight > flush > full house.
F: flush > four > full house > straight.
G: flush > four > straight > full house.
*: surprisingly only two cases where two of the scoring hands are equally rare: with four suits and twelve ranks, flush = full house; with four suits and eight ranks, flush = four.

Sunday, 2015 May 3, 13:24 — language

place-names and personal-names

In my county there’s a village named Van —–. I think that if my name had a Van or equivalent, and someone proposed to name a town for me, I’d prefer they drop the particle.

On another hand, Jan van Steenbergen has said he finds it odd to be referred to as “Steenbergen”.

An old book on place-names mentions a patch of London that has (or had) a street for every word of the former owner’s peerage title(s), including Of Alley.

(Websearch for “Couver” turns up only the French verb.)

Thursday, 2015 April 30, 12:20 — psychology

how {e|p}lastic was my valley?

If you had never seen a nonhuman mammal, would a dog’s face fall in your uncanny valley?

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