Art and weather

Today I spent time working on brief lesson outlines for upcoming ethics/critical thinking classes. I do this for classes 4 weeks in advance, so parents and students know what topics are coming up. I write the detailed lesson plans later, closer to when they are done. This week I was a bit behind, so I did two brief outlines, on the topics of art and weather. I’ve done art before, in January this year, but I had a new student join last week, and she specifically requested art as it’s her favourite subject. So I went back and looked at the previous lesson and came up with a bunch of new questions that I can ask.

For lunch I took Scully for a walk and went to the nice bakery. They had a raspberry chocolate gateau today, so I tried a slice of that after my chicken pie. It was very good.

An amusing thing that my friends and I have been doing the past few days is making AI-generated Magic: the Gathering cards, using Urza’s AI, a tool written by some fellow MtG/AI enthusiasts. It’s quite fun, and produces some amusing and interesting cards sometimes (among a bunch of random semi-rubbish). You give it a card name, and it produces all of the other text and artwork for the card. The flavour text is often the really good part. To get ideas for new cards I like to use snippets of the flavour text from the last card.

Some examples (link to permalinks of the cards I’ve generated):

One thing we’ve noticed is that it tends to produce a preponderance of blue cards, and few of any other colour. My theory: Blue cards have a broader and more general vocabulary on them, whereas cards of other colours are more specific and focused in their language. So when you type in some random phrase, it’s more likely to be a closer match to the blue vocabulary.

New content today:

Magic: Goldfish Draft results

I missed posting an entry last night because I was busy last night and bedtime crept up on me. Since I still haven’t quite fallen into a regular sleeping pattern after getting back from Europe, I decided to go to bed rather than stay up later writing a blog post.

I mentioned just over a week ago that I was playing a new game of Magic: the Gathering Goldfish Draft with my friends. Well, now a week later I can tell you the results of the game. Yes, it took me that long to calculate my score, using a spreadsheet – that’s what I was finishing up last night that caused me to have a late night. My result? I scored 10246.8 points.

Now you might think this is an awful lot of points to score in any sort of game. Surely I must have beaten everybody else’s scores! But you’d be very far from the truth. In fact, I came last out of six players. All the players’ scores were, in increasing order:

  • 10246.8 (me)
  • 1074682
  • 10628960
  • 103×1014
  • 10↑↑4.1
  • 10↑↑↑↑2.7

The last two use Knuth’s up-arrow notation for writing extremely large numbers that are beyond the capability of standard exponential notation – using a monotonic extension we worked out for interpolating non-integral operands. Also, these scores are all approximate – there’s no point, or even possibility, of tracking all the digits of the numbers we’re calculating here.

Also yesterday: did some housecleaning, dog walking, cooking, the usual day-to-day stuff.

Today: I slept in a bit after a solid sleep, which was good. I think I’m now pretty much back into a sensible sleeping pattern, which was not something I would have said yesterday. My arm is still a tiny bit sore from the 4th COVID shot on Friday, but otherwise that seemed to be fairly unremarkable.

I went for a big walk with my wife and Scully, out to our favourite bakery for a kind of brunch-ish snack. We just had a pastry each. Then on the way home we took a longer detour to see some different scenery and stretch our legs more. The day is actually nice today! Sunny and a forecast maximum of 20°C, which is considerably warmer than it has been for the past few weeks. So it was good to get out and enjoy it.

This afternoon I cleaned out the garage a bit and put some things out for the fortnightly household items collection that the council runs. Every two weeks you can put large items out on the kerb and council trucks come by and pick them up for disposal. I got rid of an old chest of drawers that we’d been storing in the garage for years, but it was pretty filthy and we were never going to use it again. I also took out my old set of golf clubs – the ancient ones I got second hand for about $50 and used until our neighbour passed away and his wife gifted me his very nice set of clubs. I’d seen second hand clubs at the golf course and asked if they wanted a donation, but they said they get lots of old clubs and don’t know what to do with them any more. So I didn’t expect to be able to get rid of them any other way, and placed them out for collection, and then a neighbour drove into our apartment driveway and saw me putting them there and asked if he could have them, for a friend of his who was just beginning to play. I said sure, and helped him take them. I’m really happy that they will get one more life with a new player!

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Friday games, Saturday game

Friday was online board games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write up an entry. We played games of Fruit Picking, 7 Wonders: Architects, Codenames, Nidavellir, 7 Wonders, and then Sketchful.

Fruit Picking is a new game we tried for the first time. It’s based on mancala; you move “seeds” round several “farms” mancala-style, and then use sets of seeds to buy fruit cards form the market to build winning sets of fruit. The tactics were interesting and we may try it again. The Codenames game was hilarious, as both sides had difficult combinations of words to clue, and also one side had SAND while the other had DESERT, so the team spymasters (me and a friend) also had to come up with clues that indicated one of those words but not the other. Our team-mates ending up hitting numerous bystanders and failing to make sense of either spymaster’s loose associations. Eventually the team opposing my team won, alas.

The other big event on Friday was Scully had her annual vaccinations at the vet. She’s been healthy the past year, with no visits to the vet since her last vaccinations. After the vet visit we gave her a bath and extra cuddles all evening.

The other thing I was doing on Friday, which extended into Saturday, was drafting a new round of our Goldfish Draft Magic: the Gathering game format that we invented. I may have mentioned this before – it’s a game based on Magic: the Gathering, in which players attempt to score the most points, and scores can often be so large that they require exponential notation to write down, or even more than that, things like Knuth’s up-arrow notation.

Today we finished drafting our cards, and now my mind turns to calculating my score. This is non-trivial, and can take several days to work out, often involving a spreadsheet. Yes, we’re complete nerds – we’re playing a game that requires a spreadsheet to calculate our scores, and often we actually deal in the logarithms (or super-logarithms) of our scores to make it easier to handle. When I’ve figured out my score, I’ll let you know, and I’ll also report what the other players scored.

Also today I worked hard on my current secret project. It’s approaching completion – so close I can taste it. Potentially I could knock it over tomorrow, but it will probably take until Monday or Tuesday given I have other things I want to work on too. You won’t see the finished result straight away – its publication is contingent on another thing happening first, but it will finally be ready, and that other thing will happen within a few weeks. So all the teasing is nearly over – you will see the result soon.

For dinner tonight, I took my wife out to the French galette and crêpe place in the next suburb. They’re having a series of special “French flavours” this month to celebrate Bastille Day. I had a galette with duck confit, carrots, potatoes, Swiss cheese, and pickled onions as my savoury meal, followed by a sweet crêpe with poached pear, flaked almonds, and chocolate sauce. All very delicious!

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 1

Today was the first day of the latest ISO Photography Standards meeting. I was scheduled to host this meeting here in Sydney, with 30+ delegates form around the world travelling here to meet and discuss digital photography standards in progress. Of course, with COVID being what it is, travel to Australia is impossible, so we’re having the meeting entirely online.

With delegates in Australia, Japan, three European time zones, and all four US time zones, it’s impossible to organise a time when everyone would normally be awake. So instead of meeting full time for 3 days, we’re doing 5 days of 3.5 hours – so the people awake in the middle of the night don’t have to stay awake for too long. Fortunately for me this meeting starts at 8 am and ends at 11:30 am, and the Europeans have the worst of it.

We always start with administrative stuff, which took most of today’s time. There was a lot of discussion of planning for future meetings. Normally we plan up to two years ahead, setting venues for each of the three meetings a year. The next meeting after this one was scheduled for Okayama in Japan in June, but that’s been converted to virtual because of COVID. The one after, around October, is scheduled for Apple HQ in Cupertino, California. I don’t know if that will go ahead in Cupertino or be converted to virtual – but either way I won’t be going because I’m pretty sure travel out of and back into Australia will be either still impossible or difficult. I really don’t want to travel to a country where COVID may still be rampant, and then have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks when I get back home.

We’ve put off talking about 2022 in the last couple of meetings, but we have to think about it now. The February meeting is normally in Yokohama, to coincide with the CP+ camera show. It wasn’t this year, because it was Japan’s turn to host the ISO Photography plenary meeting – the Okayama meeting – which involves all of the various photography committees getting together in one place. (I’m on the digital committee, there are also committees for image permanence/archiving, and imaging material dimensions. Standards for chemical photography processes are maintained by these existing committees – there is no longer a separate committee on chemical photography.) Anyway, the plan is to go back to Yokohama in February 2022. But given the virtualisation of the Okoyama plenary, there is some discussion of having Japan host a face-to-face plenary in 2022, which would be mid-year again to align with the other committees. So the proposal is for Japan to host in Yokohama in Feb 2022, and again in a place to be determined (perhaps Okayama) in mid-2022. The Japanese sponsoring bodies need to decide if they want to host twice in one year or not, and report back. Finally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has offered to host in New York City for the October 2022 meeting. All assuming physical meetings can go ahead in 2022, of course.

They asked me if I wanted to host in Sydney in 2022, given I was supposed to be hosting the current meeting. But I said I couldn’t be sure travel to Australia would even be allowed even in 2022, so I didn’t want to start organising a meeting here.

Following the admin, there was the first technical session of the meeting, which happened to be the one about which I know the least, and have the most trouble following the technical discussion. So I didn’t really participate in that. We finished for the day a bit early, just after 11:00.

I’d organised to play golf with my friend at the short pitch-and-putt course, meeting after lunch at 1 pm. I drove via my favourite pie shop and got lunch there. I had a really good game today, and after 15 holes my experienced friend and I were exactly even on total strokes. Previously I’d been playing against him with relative handicaps in the teens, but now here I was holding my own without a handicap. I even got a birdie on one hole! Unfortunately, I had a huge blow out on hole 16, needing 7 strokes. That ruined my chance of beating my friend, alas. But next time… maybe I can do a bit better again.

Back home, I was pondering an idea I’d had in discussion with another friend, about making a database of Magic: the Gathering cards, to use to automatically construct cubes of cards for use with our Goldfish Draft format. I was thinking how much work it was going to be, creating and populating a database with our lists of cards suitable for Goldfish Draft… and then I wondered if anyone had downloadable data files of Magic cards.

A quick search later and I found MTGJSON, a maintained database of every Magic card ever printed, downloadable in JSON format. Not only that, they also have an SQL export! So I grabbed the SQL file, created a new database, imported it…. and voilà! I had a fully populated database of Magic cards within about half an hour. It’s pretty cool when you think a task will take a long time, and you find a way to get it done much more quickly.

I still need to add fields for Goldfish-relevant data for each card, and then populate those, but it will be a much easier task with the core database already done. So: feeling very accomplished today!

New content today:

Magic: the Gathering and the axiom of choice

After yesterday’s exertions on the golf course, I took it a bit easier today. Mostly I worked on Darths & Droids story planning, but I took a lunch break to walk up to the local shops and get a chicken burger for lunch.

I also had some interesting discussions with friends in our online chat. Some of it was Darths & Droids story planning, so I won’t go into that further. But somehow we segued into a discussion of the phasing rules in Magic: the Gathering – I think prompted by Mark Rosewater’s latest design article, in which he says:

We’re experimenting with making phasing deciduous.

Okay, this probably makes no sense if you don’t know the early history of Magic: the Gathering, but bear with me. Phasing is a rule that first appeared in the game in 1996, but which was considered too confusing and cumbersome to use again. But now they’re playing with bringing it back, at least in a limited way. (“Deciduous” in the above quote means a rule mechanic that they always consider available to include in new card sets if it makes sense for that set.)

Phasing, in essence, is an effect that makes cards in play behave as though they are not in play – they “phase out” for a turn and then reappear. While phased out, nothing can affect them, nor can the phased out card affect anything else. It’s as if they are briefly shunted to another reality.

In the ensuing discussion, I said they shouldn’t merely have one “alternate reality” – things should be able to phase into specific other realities, of which there could be several… or even infinitely many. Then if you have two infinite sets of alternate realities orthogonal to one another, and you reference them by real numbers (i.e. all the integers, rationals, algebraic irrationals, and transcendental numbers), you could phase all of your creatures in such a way that you could duplicate them using the Banach-Tarski theorem. (For a reminder on why that premise leads to that conclusion, refer to my Irregular Webcomic! annotation on the Banach-Tarski theorem.)

Someone of course immediately pointed out that you can only use the Banach-Tarski theorem if you assume the axiom of choice to be true. (For a simple primer on the axiom of choice, see my annotation on that.)

Then someone else said that rule 722.2a of the Comprehensive Rules of Magic: the Gathering (June 1, 2020 edition) might actually imply the axiom of choice. Rules 722.2a says:

722.2a At any point in the game, the player with priority may suggest a shortcut by describing a sequence of game choices, for all players, that may be legally taken based on the current game state and the predictable results of the sequence of choices. This sequence may be a non-repetitive series of choices, a loop that repeats a specified number of times, multiple loops, or nested loops, and may even cross multiple turns. It can’t include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes. The ending point of this sequence must be a place where a player has priority, though it need not be the player proposing the shortcut.

Example: A player controls a creature enchanted by Presence of Gond, which grants the creature the ability “{T}: Create a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token,” and another player controls Intruder Alarm, which reads, in part, “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield, untap all creatures.” When the player has priority, they may suggest “I’ll create a million tokens,” indicating the sequence of activating the creature’s ability, all players passing priority, letting the creature’s ability resolve and create a token (which causes Intruder Alarm’s ability to trigger), Intruder Alarm’s controller putting that triggered ability on the stack, all players passing priority, Intruder Alarm’s triggered ability resolving, all players passing priority until the player proposing the shortcut has priority, and repeating that sequence 999,999 more times, ending just after the last token-creating ability resolves.

The argument is that it is not only possible within the rules of MtG to produce a loop of actions, but nested loops of actions, and at each loop this rule says you can specify how many times the loop is executed. If the nest of loops is infinitely deep, this means that you are effectively choosing an element from each of an infinite number of sets, where each set contains an infinite number of elements. The rules of the game say you can do this. Therefore the rules of the game say that you can apply the axiom of choice.

This is, in mathematical terms, a rather simplistic case and doesn’t (I believe) in fact rely on the axiom of choice to be doable in an actual game (although I may be wrong), but that didn’t stop us having a fun discussion about it. It was topped off by the original proposer of the example of rule 722.2a saying:

I’m not sure what it says about us that I can say “the Magic: the Gathering comprehensive rules imply the axiom of choice” as a throwaway joke, and the responses are “your rule numbering is out of date”, “no they don’t” and “actually maybe they do” (and not, for example, “ha”, “what the fuck”, or “you nerd”).

This is nowhere near the nerdiest argument we’ve ever had, by the way…

New content today:

Goldfish updates

This morning I took Scully for a walk and along the way passed a banksia tree which had a couple of rainbow lorikeets feeding on the flowers. I was pretty close, and wondered if I could get close enough to take a decent photo with my phone (which like all phones doesn’t have much telephoto capability). I was within a step or two of the tree and aiming the phone, but I scared the birds away. But I was reasonably quick on the shutter button, and managed to get this.

Taking flight

Not too bad for an opportunistic shot.

I spent some time updating the Magic: the Gathering Goldfish Draft website that I maintain, adding/updating results from tournaments and adding a bunch of the card lists we used. You can now see the evolution of the card list as we gained experience with various combinations and the potential for ludicrous scores. The recent tournament we did (mentioned here when I was actively playing it out) now has the scores in.

My score was 10148.9 points, or 7.775×10148 in standard scientific notation. You might think this is a pretty high score, but that only managed to place me sixth out of eight players. The winning score was about 10↑↑↑4 (using Knuth’s up-arrow notation for large numbers). Suffice to say this number is so large that it’s impossible to write it down in the form 10101010… because the number of 10s you’d need to add to that continued exponentiation itself is too large to write down.

Yeah, this is pretty nerdy stuff.

New content today:

Cauliflower Bomb!

This morning I went to play a round of golf at the local course. I enjoyed the time outside and getting some exercise, but my round was poor, scoring my equal worst total for the 9 holes. So let’s forget that and move on.

Speaking of high scores, I spent some time calculating my score in the Goldfish Draft Magic: the Gathering tournament that I mentioned yesterday. I needed a spreadsheet to keep track, and ended up with a score of 7.8×10144, as best I can estimate. That’s nowhere near the winning score, alas, as at least three of the other players have been mentioning that their scores require Knuth’s up-arrow notation to write down succinctly.

Tonight for dinner I cooked a thing taken from a TV recipe that my wife saw the other day. It’s a roast miso-seasoned cauliflower, with a bunch of toppings an garnishes. The recipe is here (although it doesn’t list the ingredients for the cashew cream, which is 2/3 cup cashews, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar).

Miso Cauliflower Bomb

It wasn’t hard to make, and it was delicious! I’ll definitely be cooking this again.

New content today:


I’ve been busy today participating in a Goldfish Draft Magic: the Gathering tournament with my friends. This is a tournament format invented by one of my friends, in which we draft cards (a bit like a normal Magic draft), then build a deck and calculate our score based on how much damage we can do to an unresponsive opponent in 7 turns. That is each player’s score – we don’t actually play any games of Magic against one another.

We’ve done this style of tournament several times in the past and it’s always a blast. But it’s truly mind-bending. My score in the last game was 3.75×1040, and I’m pretty sure that was a losing score.

Yes… in fact after checking with my friends, we have records that the winning score in that tournament was approximately 10↑↑↑7, where the arrows are Knuth’s up-arrow notation. Calculating one’s score usually involves a spreadsheet. Yes, we do this for fun. Yes, we’re nerds.

I also wrote some new comic scripts for Darths & Droids. And did various cooking and housework stuff.

New content today:

Late Friday: Magic event

Writing Friday night’s post on Saturday morning, because last night was the huge Magic: the Gathering games night event that I’ve been organising for weeks. So, now that my friends have been surprised, I can finally reveal some details!

I put together a cube draft tournament, selecting 360 Magic cards from various different sets, and randomly distributing them to produce 24 faux boosters, for the booster draft format. I even printed cover pictures for the faux boosters and sealed the cards inside. Here’s a picture of the 24 faux boosters – There’s a theme, which you might be able to recognise. Be quick, I’m going to spoil it in the next paragraph:

The theme is that all these things were released in 1993-1995. Not coincidentally, Magic: the Gathering was released in 1993. The gimmick with this cube draft was that many of the cards I selected were from some of the very early released sets of Magic. Now, some of those cards were very powerful and have never been reprinted, so they are scarce, and thus have become insanely valuable over time. The best known are the so-called “Power Nine” cards, which now change hands for prices of the order of several thousand US dollars each. I started playing Magic after these cards had stopped being printed, so I don’t own any of them. But I have a friend who started playing Magic before me, and he has a full set of all these early sets, including not only the Power Nine, but also dozens of other rare and very valuable cards. (If you know Magic, he has complete sets of Unlimited, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, and an almost complete set of Arabian Nights.)

He hasn’t played with those cards for some time, and wondered if I would like to use them in games with my Magic playing group. Needless to say I leapt at the opportunity to borrow them! I selected 360 of the most powerful cards I could get my hands on, including some cards from more recent sets from my own collection (I kept track of ownership in a spreadsheet). I double-sleeved the cards to protect them, then created the faux boosters ready for playing.

My friends had no idea what I had prepared; I’d only told them that I was organising a draft tournament and would provide all the cards. To get into the spirit of “old timey” stuff, I suggested we get dressed up in jackets and ties, and I brought several bottles over to make cocktails. While we waited for the last players to arrive, they speculated on what was in store. Someone suggested I had made an entire self-designed Magic set based on a James Bond theme.

Old Timey Magic draft

When everyone had arrived, I handed out the first booster packs. Everyone was intrigued by the cover design but nobody picked up on the theme. Then when they opened the packs and saw the cards within… It was great. Many expressions of shock and disbelief as most of them saw for the first time with their own eyes renowned cards they’d only ever heard about in hushed tones before, and realised they were going to get to play games with them.

We went through the rounds of drafting, with many expressions of incredulity at the cards they were seeing. And then built our decks and played the games, which led to several epic and hilarious plays throughout the evening.

For those savvy with the game, one memorable incident from a game I played: I mana-accelerated into Eureka, thinking my hand stacked with huge creatures would prevail over whatever my opponent had. He put out Nicol Bolas, which bemused me because he didn’t have the necessary lands to pay for the upkeep. But then he put out Tawnos’s Coffin, which I thought would neutralise one of my big creatures, but then he activated it to exile his own Nicol Bolas, and I realised his cunning plan. On his next turn he played the last land he needed to pay Bolas’s upkeep, and unleashed him from the Coffin…. and it was all over red rover for me, as Nicol Bolas proceeded to pound me for huge damage until I was dead.

By the end of the night, much fun had been had by all, and everyone agreed it had been one of our most memorable Magic tournaments ever!

(The other thing I did on Friday before going to games night was finish a new entry for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe…)

New content today:

Die Bahn

Two things today: I put the finishing touches on the preparation for Friday night’s Magic: the Gathering event. Phew. It was a lot of work, but it’s good to have it completed. Now I just have to wait with eager anticipation for Friday night, when my friends and I get to play this tournament!

And secondly I did some preparation for my upcoming trip to Germany for ISO photography standards meetings. My wife is travelling with me. Unfortunately because of the way the dates work out and the time zone shift, we have to fly back home from Frankfurt on the evening of the day before our wedding anniversary, and we don’t get home until the morning of the day after our anniversary. Basically, we’re going to lose our anniversary this year. We end up spending a couple of hours waiting for a connecting flight at 3am in Dubai Airport, but that’s not exactly conducive to a romantic meal or anything. So I’ve booked a fancy restaurant in Cologne for the evening before we leave, two days early. It’s a place we’ve eaten at before, so we know it’ll be good.

I also booked our connecting train tickets today. Die Bahn is a great service, but gosh the tickets are expensive. We’re travelling from Frankfurt Airport to Essen, where we’re going to attend a day of the Spiel board gaming fair, and then we travel back to Cologne for my ISO meetings, before heading home. It’ll be a short trip, but should be fun!

New content today: