How to start playing Go the boardgame

Tell me why I should care about Go? 🙂

Go is a deep, rich, interesting territory control & capture boardgame. I like it for it’s combination of broad strategy and precise tactics.

I’m still on the fence about giving it a try. What’s one thing you think will sell it to me?

Try the documentary AlphaGo about the best Go player in the world playing an incredibly strong AI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXuK6gekU1Y.

Any fair warnings?

There is a bit of a short steep learning curve at the very start. All I can say is when I was at that point I remember thinking “What the hell is this game. Why should I even bother?”. Learning the fundamentals and having some small wins (“Hey, I managed to do that right!”) can help at the beginning.

The game can brutally punish single mistakes.

Some parts of Go are considered “solved problems”, these are given the name josecki (English loanword from Japanese). You may be put off the idea of having to learn these. All I can say is that the robust ranking system helps match you up against other players/bots who have the same level of josecki knowledge as yourself.

Ok. I’m in. Where should I start?

I recommend starting in the order below to help mitigate the shock of the initial steep learning curve of Go.

  1. Do the OGS ‘Learn to play Go’ tutorials: https://online-go.com/learn-to-play-go. Don’t worry if you can’t pass all the tutorials! And don’t be afraid to do the tutorial more than once.
  2. Look up any Go words or phrases you don’t know in Sensei’s Library: https://senseis.xmp.net/?GoTerms
  3. Watch In Sente’s ‘Top 5 Mistakes Beginner Go Players Make’ video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tPlqeDgylo. Just try to absorb the general principles if you can.
  4. If you take one thing away from the video above, make it your goal to take away at least one learning from every game of Go you lose. The concept that in Go all you are trying to do is improve your own play over time is an important one, and one that makes playing Go rewarding.
  5. To begin with, only play 9 x 9 games of Go. The bigger sizes are overwhelming for beginner players.
  6. Learn how the ranking system in Go works: https://github.com/online-go/online-go.com/wiki/Getting-Started-%7C-Creating-and-Adjusting-Your-Account#your-rating. This is important as it helps you understand how to play against people and bots who are at your beginner level.
  7. Ok. It’s time to create an OGS account and have some unranked (make sure you tick this) play-around games against the easiest bot: https://online-go.com/register. Make sure you use ‘Estimate score’ from the menu to get an idea of where you stand during games. Once you both click the pass button, or one of you resigns, the game will end. Make sure you review the AI-generated analysis of the ‘Key moves’ of the game. This will significantly help you learn from the games you play.
  8. Watch In Sente’s ‘Beginner Go Series’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMshtO8h7RU&list=PLcCRY3CjFHc3nWVoyRRjBC4rtb3hGBAJ6. Don’t feel like you have to watch all of the videos at once. I recommend learning something new, trying it out, coming back to the Beginner series, trying it out, etc.
  9. When you are ready, start watching Nick Sibicky’s videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_msctwlIh2cwM8yAtaju1A. They will really help your Go game. I recommend starting with #88 How to Make Better Shape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJEioB9QhaI.

Good luck!

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The future of the BBC

The BBC was in the news today because it is losing funding due to fewer people choosing to pay for a TV licence.

A TV licence is something required by law in the UK before you can watch any live TV, or anything that is being streamed live at the same time it is live on TV (except for Parliament TV which is exempt), or any on-demand content accessed via the BBC iPlayer website & app. The BBC is funded mostly through the TV licence fee.

Ironically, I support the existence of the BBC, however my partner and I do not pay for it. Here are some reasons for that, and some ideas I have for the future of the BBC.

Reasons we don’t pay for the BBC:

  • It’s too expensive. We are a low-income family. It currently costs £13.12 a month to access BBC content. Compare that to the £4 a month we currently pay a month to have access to a Netflix family plan.
  • The programming quality is hit and miss. The majority of content on the BBC is not for me. In comparison, the majority of the content on Netflix is for me.
  • The abdication of responsibility regarding Brexit journalism. The BBC chose to try to be “neutral” on Brexit, but just ended up angering people on both sides of that debate. Facts are facts. The opposite of a fact is not balanced news or journalism. If the BBC is in the business of neutrality, but not facts, people like us are not going to pay for it.

Ideas for the future:

  1. I think BBC radio performs an important civic function. There are aspects of the BBC websites and BBC News that this is also true for. And I think as long as this is true, our taxes should pay for it. For example, millions of British people rely on the content of Rupert Murdoch’s media companies for their information. This media environment should be better regulated but it’s not, so it persists in its current state. As long as an unhealthy media landscape like this exists, the presence of the BBC provides a useful alternative.
  2. Entertainment, content, whatever you want to call it, the stuff that isn’t performing a civic function per point 1 above, make that a stand-alone state-owned for-profit media company. Try whatever money-making models you want to, subscription, advertising, become a production house for other streaming services, whatever works. If there is a tension between making political content and the company being state owned & for-profit, then sell the media company. If no one wants to buy it, and the company is losing money, shut it down.
  3. If the UK Government is uninterested/unwilling to do point 1 & point 2 above, I think they should at least stop making a BBC licence a requirement for watching live broadcasts online that are simultaneously available as live TV channels. It makes zero sense that I should have to pay to watch Al Jazeera streaming online from Doha. Making access to that a BBC licence requirement just fosters resentment and antipathy towards the BBC. And don’t tell me it’s not the BBC that makes the rules, that doesn’t matter, I’m just telling you how I experience it.
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‘Richest 1% have almost a quarter of UK wealth, study claims’

You may have seen recently that new research by the Resolution Foundation reveals the richest 1% in the UK have almost a quarter of all the wealth. Here is an article about it: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2021/jan/03/richest-1-have-almost-a-quarter-of-uk-wealth-study-claims.

This inequality is obviously unacceptable and, I believe, an important challenge for everyone to address this century.

I think a key aspect of addressing economic inequality is fair taxation. So, for fun, I have created a couple of T-Shirts to raise awareness of the issue!

Introducing…

The End Tax Evasion Now T-Shirt!

Link: https://www.zazzle.co.uk/end_tax_evasion_now_the_t_shirt_white-235912729217950528

End Tax Evasion Now T-Shirt in white

(comes in black, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

Alternate design:

End Tax Evasion Now T-Shirt in white (alternate design)

(comes in black, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

And the…

Tax The Super Rich Properly T-Shirt!

Link: https://www.zazzle.co.uk/tax_the_super_rich_properly_black_t_shirt-235357087718033571

Tax The Super Rich Properly T-Shirt in black

(comes in white, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

Alternate design

Tax The Super Rich Properly T-Shirt in black (alternate design)

(comes in white, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

And NEW:

Share Your Wealth With Everyone T-Shirt!

Link: https://www.zazzle.co.uk/share_your_wealth_with_everyone_black_t_shirt-235038085984095767

Share Your Wealth With Everyone T-Shirt in black

(comes in white, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

Alternate design

Share Your Wealth With Everyone T-Shirt in black (alternate design)

(comes in white, and also in a variety of shapes and sizes)

💛

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This is the best insight into American politics I have heard this year (18 minutes long)

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/former-conservative-blogger-failures-conservative-media-on-the-media

‘A Former Conservative Blogger On the Failures of Right-Wing Media’

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/former-conservative-blogger-failures-conservative-media-on-the-media

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I made a playlist: Christmas music that doesn’t suck

Link to the playlist in the Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7rxKpHr689h1bHBiDWo8Gp?si=R7nIjvfVR2SlSJpPGxXqWA

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How to play Wavelength (“the telepathic party game”) online

Here is a description of Wavelength:

Wavelength is a social guessing game in which two teams compete to read each other’s minds. Teams take turns rotating a dial to where they think a hidden bullseye is located on a spectrum. One of the players on your team — the Psychic — knows exactly where the bullseye is, and draws a card with a pair of binaries on it (such as: Job – Career, Rough – Smooth, Fantasy – Sci-Fi, Sad Song – Happy Song, etc). The Psychic must then provide a clue that is conceptually where the bullseye is located between those two binaries.

For example, if the card this round is HOT-COLD and the bullseye is slightly to the “cold” side of the centre, the Psychic needs to give a clue somewhere in that region. Perhaps “salad”?

After the Psychic gives their clue, their team discusses where they think the bullseye is located and turns the dial to that location on that spectrum. The closer to the center of the bullseye the team guess, the more points they score!

Source: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/262543/wavelength

Wavelength can be bought as a physical boardgame (but I wouldn’t buy it from Amazon .co.uk right now as you will probably be able to buy it cheaper from elsewhere).

What to use to play Wavelength online

An official app is in the works (as of October 2020). In the meantime, you can play a fan-made version online (i.e. via Google Meet, Zoom, etc):

https://longwave.web.app/

Other fan-made online versions:
https://gjeuken.github.io/telewave/
https://heretothere.app/

How to play Wavelength

The best “how-to” video I have been able to find goes from 1 minute 47 seconds to 3 minutes 20 seconds in this video: https://youtu.be/ap6xJODKRdM?t=107

There is also the official rules (direct link to the PDF).

And here is a Wavelength rules cheat sheet (taken from the official rule book):

Wavelength rules cheat sheet

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A letter to my son (about death)

Dear son,

It is the year 2020. Here are some things that are, as far as I know, true: All of humanity lives on Earth, the third planet from our local star the Sun. The Earth is orbiting the Sun at a speed of approximately 108,000 km/h1. The Sun itself is travelling through the galaxy at a speed of approximately 782,000 km/h2, orbiting the Milky Way. We think the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old3 and we think the Universe is about 13.8 billion years old4.

There are about 7.6 billion people on Earth5. Humans are, as far as we know, the only self-aware beings on the planet. We evolved from primates approximately 5 to 8 million years ago6. A human, if they are fortunate, can live up to 100 years old and even longer in some cases. The average life expectancy varies greatly depending on different factors, such as where you are born on Earth.

In 2020 humans still live and die. To live forever and never die is the ambition of some people but here, early in the 21st-century, it is still not possible. Maybe, one day, we will extend our average life expectancy significantly, and maybe one day we will extend it indefinitely. For now though death is inevitable. When we are alive it is difficult to contemplate death, being alive is so intense and vivid it feels hard to imagine one day it will stop. People deal with the fact we all die differently. Most people don’t like to think about it or talk about it.

I was raised by my parents to believe that I wouldn’t die and that I would live forever. As an adult I realised this probably wasn’t true. The evidence shows us that we are living organisms that live, die, & decompose.

I think people deal with the reality of life and death differently. Some people choose not to think about it. Some people try to do lots and lots of different things to keep themselves busy so they don’t have time to think about it. Some people choose to believe they won’t die & they will live forever.

Some people think that all of our reality is a computer simulation. There is currently no strong evidence to confirm or deny this. We live relatively short lives with the fear of death hanging over us, so if this is a simulation I don’t think I want to meet the makers of such a place.

Some people think we should aim to try and find ways to live forever, and some people think it is good that life has a natural end and to live forever would be worse than living knowing we will die one day. I can see the concerns about the challenges we would face if we did find a way to live forever. But I believe whether immortality is a good thing or not is still an open question. I believe there is still the possibility that with the power to live forever could come the power to make immortality enjoyable.

Most of the time I choose not to think about death. Sometimes I do think about it and it makes me feel scared. Sometimes dying can be painful for people, and I don’t want to die painfully. I try to remind myself that most people die in hospital and their family is with them and they are taking medication that takes the pain away. And that doesn’t sound too bad.

I want you to know it is okay to find death scary. And it is okay to not want to think about it. That’s normal, pretty much everyone does that or something like it. I’m here if you ever do want to talk about it.

Love,
Dad


Footnotes

  1. https://phys.org/news/2014-11-earth-orbit-sun.html
  2. https://www.universetoday.com/18028/sun-orbit/
  3. https://www.space.com/24854-how-old-is-earth.html
  4. https://www.space.com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.html
  5. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-many-people-live-in-the-world.html
  6. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/cat02.html

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Series to watch during a pandemic

Recently my friend Dave asked me to recommend him some series to watch while he is housebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So! Here are my suggestions… (For reference, here is the rating system I use).

Series I recommend watching right now in March 2020
True Detective Season One 4.5 stars
Mr Robot 4 stars
Mad Men 4 stars (Full disclosure: I have only watched the first two seasons and they were great)
Boardwalk Empire 3.5 stars (I recently finished watching this. First three seasons are the best ones)
Ozark 3.5 stars
Westworld Seasons One and Two 3.5 stars
Atlanta 3.5 stars
Mindhunter 3 stars

Classic series
The Wire 5 stars
The Thick of It 5 stars
Deadwood 5 Stars

Documentary series
The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick 5 stars

True Crime documentary series
The Staircase 4 stars
The Jinx 4 stars

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Dave’s Overall Rating System (DORS)

1 star = Poor
2 stars = Average
3 stars = Good
3.5 stars = Good with moments of greatness
4 stars = Great
4.5 stars = Great with moments of excellence
5 stars = Excellent

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How my family moved to a flexitarian diet

My family & I have recently moved to a more plant-based diet because of the health benefits and lower impact on the environment.

I have long-term ambitions to eventually be vegan so this flexitarian diet is for me hopefully a way to transition to that.

Here’s how we moved to a flexitarian diet:

Our flexitarian diet cuts out cow’s milk in favour of soya milk and we have stopped eating these types of meat: beef, poultry, and pork. We are still eating fish, and we are still eating other dairy products besides cow’s milk.

In order to eat this flexitarian diet we have to be mindful of being more intentional to get these nutrients each day: calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. This is because these are easier to get when eating a traditional omnivore diet. The Google Document below lists alternative sources we use to get these nutrients beyond beef/poultry/chicken and cow’s milk:

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