Go and Learning

After my epic shoulder injury, I stopped lifting weights and playing ultimate for more than a year. This gave me some extra time, and I’ve decided to study Go “seriously” (well, as seriously as I can with the responsibilities of a graduate student) with that time. I stopped about a couple of weeks ago, after which I had some introspection about what I’ve accomplished and failed to accomplish. The tl;dr version of my progress is at http://senseis.xmp.net/?Eggplant86, though it is not very interesting by itself; what I’ve gained most from the introspection were some lessons and observations, both about Go and just learning things in general. I thought this would be a good place to write them down, both for a future me and for the case that someone else may benefit from them.

Continue reading “Go and Learning”

On Things Big and Small

A pleasant Thursday morning before the Boston Monsoon, I was in J’s car going to Foxwoods. With us was T, an aspiring player earnest about improvement who has lamented about his recent rut. This was our first trip together, and he gave me a couple of hands to dissect on the ride. I happily obliged.

His first couple of hands were fairly standard, so a “dude you’re destroying him here, just bet” or “well bottom-two may not be good here since he’s so tight” settled those. The next hand got interesting: after he c-bet a dry Axx flop with mid-pair meh-kicker, the turn paired the A. I asked T to give his analysis, and he gave me several reasons to bet, along the lines of “I think I’m ahead” and “I bet because I didn’t want to look weak since I’ve been checking.”

To me, this was completely fine – these thoughts describe exactly how I would first approach the situation, if not how I might just make the decision. However, for this particular hand several factors bugged me (for example, I knew that his opponent is solid and balances his ranges well), so I decided to ask what I thought to be the natural next question: what is his opponent’s range? What is the range T is representing? What is the expected value in each part of the range given his river plan?

T was confused for a moment, and gave me a few more sentences like “well, I think he’s strong?” or “well, he probably doesn’t have an A.” I was in turn confused myself because he wasn’t answering my questions, but I quickly realized that I was speaking a different language. I understood at that point what his plateau was, why I would make a horrible mathematician, and why Martin Luther King Jr’s battle was so difficult.

I’ll explain. Cards first.

Continue reading “On Things Big and Small”


The vices of being a poker degenerate creep beyond potential bankrupcy when the game habits start to corrupt real-life decisions. In other skills this is (mostly) harmless – the weirdest thing that has happened to me because of foosball was zoning out during the World Cup wondering why the guys weren’t lined up neatly and doing simultaneous stationary back-flips. However, being a complete calling station is much more exploitable, as P cleverly demonstrated by provoking me into agreeing to skydive with a simple comment to my last post:

P: “…blah blah blah. i say you man the f*** up and jump out of a plane or off a bridge.”

Y: “f*** you!” (translation: “okay.”)

Even though they trapped me, my friends were, as always, considerate and wonderful. Knowing my fear of heights, they warmly prepared me with a week of Youtube videos of skydiving incidents gone horrible wrong and inducing three nights of nightmares involving heights and planes. Then it was Saturday. Continue reading “Jumper”


The Bard Hall gym has a terrace, which is kind of weird, it being in a basement.

The twisted geography of Washington Heights places back side of the gym atop a four-story drop overlooking the river. So while I was listening to blaring workout music, every few seconds a pleasant river breeze splashes me from the direction of the window. I wanted to go out and look down, and stare at the water a bit to cool me off between sets. While I did a little bit of supplements myself, A has been stacking creatine and nitric oxide and protein and magic dust and God-knows what, and I was a little miffed and groggy since I couldn’t keep up. I wanted the water.

But I’m afraid of heights. Continue reading “Vertigo”

I’m not too Different from George Bush

comic020108.jpg I read a damn good article about a week ago titled The Illustrated President from Harper’s Magazine. The subject is the following painting:

A charge to keep

Cliff’s Notes: Our eminent president is moved by the above painting of a fearless missionary determined to uphold American values in the Godless West. He takes the painting’s heroic name, A Charge to Keep, for his autobiography. A little research tells us that the painting was an illustration for a short story depicting a horse thief running away from his persecutors, blessed with the caption “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.” Scott Horton ends his bitter analysis of President Bush with:

So Bush’s inspiring, proselytizing Methodist is in fact a horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob. It seems a fitting marker for the Bush presidency. Bush has consistently exhibited what psychologists call the “Tolstoy syndrome.” That is, he is completely convinced he knows what things are, so he shuts down all avenues of inquiry about them and disregards the information that is offered to him. This is the hallmark of a tragically bad executive. But in this case, it couldn’t be more precious. The president of the United States has identified closely with a man he sees as a mythic, heroic figure. In fact that man is a wily criminal one step out in front of justice. It perfectly reflects Bush the man . . . and Bush the president.

It’s a delightfully safe fad to poke fun at Bush. However, after I laughed, I thought about the painting a little more seriously and began to wonder if I really should be laughing at myself for all of my similarities to the President. Continue reading “I’m not too Different from George Bush”

an old man and his weights

comic062107.jpgI tend to be reluctant running on treadmills when there is another person using the adjacent treadmill. This is an extension of the male urinal ettiquete, where every time you enter a public bathroom with more than 2 people in it one dude will be at the farthest urinal and one at the closest one. The explanation is obviously the (heterosexual) man code that forces you to maximize penile distance from other men at all costs.

Today was sprints day and I promised myself I wouldn’t find an excuse to skip my run, so I awkwardly got on the only open treadmill next to the old man pacing leisurely at around 6.5 mph. 50 would be cutting it young, and 60 a bit impolite, so I’ll go for 55 as his age. There was something weird about the way he was dressed, but I didn’t want to stare so I did not notice.

Soon, I discover that the ~55 year old man was totally schooling me on the treadmill. Granted, I wasn’t jogging my 200s, but the guy was there already when I was stretching and lifting, so he already had at least 20 minutes. After 5 200’s, I was ready to die (senior belly), and the old man sped up. I guessed he was starting speed intervals.

If this were a competition, I would have been served like the young unathletic fool I was. When I surrendered after a few more laps, I saw why I thought earlier that he was dressed strangely – the man was wearing (very colorful) weights. Two on his forearms, two on his ankles. Altogether, they added about 20 pounds to his extremeties.

I left to get water and use the bathroom, and when I swung back the only thing I could hear was the machine still creaking “leisurely.” I’m suddenly not looking forward to hitting 55 quite as much as I used to.


New Things

People like to refresh at turning points in life, usually flirting with new personalities for a new social circle that does not know your old gossip. I like refreshing; It is sexy and discreet, with that new-year’s resolution feel. So I’ll use college graduation as my excuse to try WordPress as my new blog.