15 June 2020

[Real life] The pandemic continues to affect our lives in strange and unexpected ways. The rules around renting changed in early June, and not long after, I was sent a Section 21 eviction notice, stating that I'd need to be out by the 10 September, with the rest of the letter going into detail about the penalties, proceedings and possessions that would take place if I failed to comply. In less legal communications, I'm assured that my landlords just want the place back for their son to live in, rather than because I'm some kind of nightmare tenant. Phew. The initial formal approach is presumably because actual evictions are suspended for the summer and, without the ability to get a court order to evict tenants, landlords are worried they won't be getting their property back quickly or easily.

Under the pandemic rules, tenants get an extended three months, which is really a decent amount of time to find somewhere new, but landlords have been waiting months for this change and doubtless many such notices were sent out up and down the land, so, if restrictions permit, I might look into spending a few months travelling or staying with friends from September onwards and try to beat the market demand. We'll see.

So, there's less to report this week, given that much of last week was spent doing preparation for the move, throwing out a ton of stuff and putting my things into crates ready to go into storage. This was in between a couple of nice trips to Kilve Beach where I played go with my sister while my neice and nephew splashed around in the river. So it's not all bad!

[Screen time] The television hasn't been packed up and sent for storage quite yet. I've been watching the eight episodes of Midnight Gospel — consisting of long extracts of old Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast episodes, newly fused with weird, fantastic, ethereal, metaphysical, psychedelically visual storylines. Clancy is a 44-year-old spacecaster — a kind of podcaster — with one subscriber. (Sound familiar?) He owns an unlicensed multiverse simulator which he uses to travel to worlds on the brink of apocalypse in order to interview its residents and find answers to life's most challenging questions. It's by Pendleton Ward, creator of the beloved Adventure Time, but it's rather more adult and dark. It's odd — both the audio and video kind of wash over you and you wander between one and the other, giving you something to think about now and then, and it's often something philosophical.

On a completely different wavelength, the film we put on at Saturday night's virtual cinema was the Korean comedy/thriller/horror Parasite (2019). It was Chris's pick and an excellent pick it was too. Kim Ki-woo, the son from a destitute family, poses as a college student to tutor the daughter of the very wealthy Park family. Deceit builds on deceit as the rest of the Kims contrive to become employed by the Parks, but things don't work out well for everyone as a result. And, like the Aster films I mentioned last week, Parasite slowly unfolds into a well-written, beautifully-performed, two-hour nightmare.

[Food] We had another lovely Sunday roast in my sister's garden, again from The Music Pantry. This time it was vegan haggis, even better than Macsween's, which Heather packed up for us along with a bag full of leftover kale, dill and greens. Wow. The takeaway offering is expanding into pastries, salads, falafel and savoury tarts, most of which we plan to try out this week.

[Go] I've realised I've failed to understand a number of absolutely fundamental things about the game. In go, the concept of an eye — an internal area of liberties fully surrounded by a group of stones — determines whether the group can stay on the board forever (life) or be inevitably captured (death). I understood this concept, but not how to actually recognise an eye. Patterns can look like eyes but actually are false. Looking over my last game, I think this lack of understanding didn't exactly help. Talking to Chris during game reviews is helping, though, and through learning terms like throw in, it's easier to grasp what a false eye is. I've also finally worked out how to score, at least with Japanese counting, something else I should have known before now!

I've almost finished some code to do my own, cool, go diagrams. Almost. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be able to use it to point out some interesting points games here.

Lots of people are playing games online during the lockdown, it seems. Among my IRC friends, there's a parallel dimension of groups of people forming Bridge and Euchre nights, or playing space games like Elite. Go, however, is distracting me effectively enough.

The talk of Elite reminded me of how much fun it was to play Eve with friends, and I found the rather cinematic soundtrack (also on Spotify) and put it on in the background as I did some coding. Music which is just distracting enough is great for programming, especially if coffee is making your mind go a bit all over the place. Stumbling on the Hacker Soundscapes list on a wiki, I revisited a few of my favourite radio stations for coding this week. In the past, I've tuned into StillStream, Cryosleep, SomaFM, or Fip. There's a lot to find in the archives of NTS Radio or by just listening live. Specifically for programming, there's the musicForProgramming site to explore too. Then, of course, there's the whole different area of programming for music.

[Geometry] I also now know what a gömböc [ˈɡømbøt͡s] is. Until recently, it was thought that if every 3-D shape had to have at least four points of equilibrium — stable or unstable points on which the shape can balance — if it is convex (it curves outwards) and homogeneous (uniform in density without any sneaky weights). But it turns out that there are convex and homogeneous shapes with fewer than four points of equilibrium. In fact, a shape came be made with just one stable and one unstable point of equilibrium. The shape is close to a sphere, but not quite, and must be made very precisely. Gábor Domokos, who, with Péter Várkonyi, proved the existence of the gömböc, gave a talk at Oxford in 2016 about it, the journey to its discovery, and the search for its existence in nature. The shape is associated with the evolution of the ability of shelled animals like tortoises and beetles to right themselves after being placed upside down. Domokos and Várkonyi spent a year measuring, digitising and analysing tortoises in Hungarian zoos, museums and pet shops in order to establish the link before publishing their findings in 2007.

And finally, the mathsy part of Twitter continues to amaze and amuse.

A rod through one hole of a double torus can pass through both with some careful stretching of the surface. No tearing or pinching required.