Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Backgammon and the world cup (and probably lots of other things as well)

There is something called the FIBS rating.


It's a weighted ratings system. A player with a low rating will see their rating rise higher if they beat a player with a high rating than they would if they won a match against a low rated player. There are other factors too. The main one being the match length. Winning a match played over a series of games, with the winner being the first to amass 21 points would yield a bigger ratings gain for the winner than a match against the same opponent that was played over 1 or 3 points.

Backgammon is more like poker than chess. It's not about pure skill. There is an element of luck too. A good player will beat a bad one most of the time, especially over a series of games. Yet perfect play will sometimes be confounded by mediocrity combined with luck. It's all about probabilities, and making the optimal play, so that you maximise your own chances of a useful throw of the dice, while doing your best to minimise your opponents options.

Meanwhile, of course, your opponent is trying to do the same thing to you.

Once you reach a certain level, and can play the best possible move every time (which no human ever does, although computers increasingly can) if you meet an opponent that is equally skilled, it becomes a matter of luck.

The human factor dictates style. For example, if an attacking option and a defensive option both present themselves, each offering some balancing factors of risk and/or reward, one player might choose the aggressive play, while another might make more conservative choices. Each may prevail. That's the game.

Watching England play against Tunisia last night, I couldn't help feel that against a better team, (and if it had been chess, rather than backgammon, England would prabably have won 4 or 5 - 1 )given the same luck, they would have struggled.

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

3 letters

One of the things I have been thinking about is "What combination of three letters has the most permutations?"

For any group of three letters, there are six different combinations. For example...


That's just an example, and it yields just one legitimate English word, CAB, unless BAC is also a word.

I've not found a group that makes words in any order.

Or five.

I've found one that makes four:

SAP - ASP - SPA - PAS (the last word is a dance step closely derived from French but it's in the dictionary)

Here are some that make three:


It would be easier if I included acronyms.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Your money or your life

I call this the highwayman fallacy.

"Or" is a logical signifier.

To take the highwayman's words literally, you can either give him the money, or he will kill you, but leave you with the money.

So it should really be "Your money, or your money AND your life.

Just sayin'

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Living on an island...

When you look at Wirral, it's basically a rectangle, and that's how people tend to think of it. But it's a bit more complicated than that. Wallasey, on the top right corner, is almost cut off from the rest of it by the system of docks that run from the River Mersey through Birkenhead and up towards the Irish Sea. There are only 5 roads in and out.

Road 1. Leasowe Road, takes traffic from the North Coast of Wirral, Moreton, Leasowe, Meols, Hoylake, West Kirby into Wallasey Village.

Road 2. This takes traffic from the North of Birkenhead, with a lot of the stuff carried by road 1, and any traffic from the M53 into Wallasey.

Roads 3,4 and 5 all take traffic across bridges over the docks. 3 takes some of the M53's traffic and North Birkenhead. 4 takes stuff from the middle of Birkenhead. 5 Takes central Birkenhead, and anything coming up the A41 from Eastern Wirral - Tranmere, Bromborough, Rock Ferry, Bebington, etc.

Between 3 and 5, the docklands are being prepared for redevelopment. They have big plans for this area, which has been pretty much unused for the last couple of decades.

So they've been replacing the bridge over road 5. What should have taken a few months has now taken well over a year, and they're still not done. So all the traffic that would normally go through road 5 is being funneled through the other routes, mainly road 4. At rush hour, all of these routes become gridlocked. I'd like to humbly suggest that putting some kind of temporary structure in place, like a pontoon or something, might have been useful. When this work is finished, they will be replacing the bridge over road 4.

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been roadworks causing long delays on road 2. (They're putting traffic lights in) For the last couple of days, a burst water main caused the closure of road 3.

I shall leave it to your imagination as to the effects. Road 3 has now reopened, but not everyone knows about this, so people are still avoiding it.

The bridges themselves, taking roads 4 and 5 across the docks, are quite interesting. They're single leaf bascule bridges with a curved rack intersecting a flat stretch of pinion on the side of the roadway. The leaf is balanced by a counterweight, which means the bridge needs relatively little energy to move.

Picture credit: Rept0n1x 

The bridges date from the 1930's, and both the Tower Road (Road 5) and Duke Street (Road 4) will be replaced by something that involves hydraulics and pistons and what have you. There will be one left, spanning two unused sections of dock. I'm glad about that. This type (known as a rolling bascule) is actually quite rare. They're a part of our industrial heritage, and have allowed ships and cars (and trains) to traverse the docks for close to a century.

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