Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Game Theory Explained

This is quoted from a post on a WoW-related forum I peruse. Thanks go out to Akanax, the author!
Suppose there are 2 bank robbers, Bob and Pete. So Bob and Pete rob the bank, all seems well and good, not so! Later that day they are taken to police station for questioning. They are separrated and interviewed. Bob and Pete are each equally propositioned; if Bob confesses, and Pete doesn't, Bob gets off free, while Pete gets 8 years in the lock-up. If they both keep their mouths shut, they get a year each. However, if they both confess, they are busted for 4 years a piece. Pete is offered with the same choices.

It is only rational that each will pick the choice to minimise thier own term, confess. But this is cleary not the best outcome. The best outcome is known as 'Nash equilibrium' (Nash was the guy in the film 'A Beautiful Mind'). The only way to reach this point, is with collusion.
I haven't studied game theory so I can't speak to the accuracy of the quoted piece. However I'm pretty sure it's a good explanation of "the prisoner's dilemma." I'll have to look more into this some other time. Cheers!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hiding among the azalea bushes. (And the boxes.)

I have spent this past week moving the contents of my apartment. My daily routine for the previous 4 days has pretty much been:
  • Wake up, shower, eat breakfast.
  • Pack shit into boxes.
  • Pack boxes into cars.
  • Drive 1 of the 2 cars down to Trumbull.
  • Unpack cars.
  • Drive back up to Hartford.
Four days in a row, 2 cars each day. Not all carloads have been stuffed cars but that's really only yesterday. So, in total, probably around 7 carloads thus far.

Fortunately I'm running out of things to pack up and nearly have this place empty. Unfortunately, I need to finish everything TODAY. The movers are coming tomorrow morning to move the big furniture into storage.

Unfortunately my computer is getting disassembled today and I know not when it will be reassembled and back online. (Hopefully sooner rather than later.) That may or may not impede anything. (Anything like blog posting and/or World of Warcraft playing.)

So off I go! I really hate moving.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yes, yes.

Additional travel posts will eventually be forthcoming. I have been busy these past few days being not busy and playing World of Warcraft (some). I am sorely tempted to drop the game, though. Sorely tempted.


(Just saw the advert on FX.)

I'm finally in packing mode. Apparently I have had tons of books in my apartment. Tons as in tons. As in over 6 small U-Haul boxes worth. Plus over 3 small boxes of law books. I am a book fiend. A book fiend. Funny thing is only half of the non-law books are ones I've read. Guess I need to get into reading mode and plow through the other half. *le sigh*

So much yet to do. Soooo much.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Il Palio!

Twice a year, once on July 2nd and once on August 16th, Siena, Italy holds a unique event dating back almost 350 years - Il Palio!
The Palio is run to celebrate the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near the old houses that belonged to Provenzano Salvani. The holy apparition was therefore called "Madonna di Provenzano" in whose honour the very first Palio was run on August 16, 1656. The Palio was run for the first time in 1701 in honour of the "Madonna dell'Assunta" the patroness and Advocate of Siena through all the tragic events since she protected the Sienese militia at the famous battle of Monteaperti against the Florentines. (link)
This event is basically Italian horse racing on crack. (Speed was too calm for it.) Biannually, 10 horses compete in a race around a dirt track in a plaza in the middle of town known as Piazza del Campo.

It gets better.

Siena is divided up into 17 Contradas - what we might call districts or regions. Although the 17 Contradas are all just small sections of the larger city, they are comparable to towns of their owns - each having its own center, its own church, its own ruling body, its own symbol and colors, its own loyalty. The Contradas have distinct names, often associated with the symbol representing the Contrada. Translated in English, there's Eagle, Owl, Snail, Caterpillar, Dragon, She-Wolf (th official symbol of Siena) and more. (See the list here.)

As you can imagine, and knowing the Italians as you may or may not, the citizens of Siena feel an intense loyalty to their Contrada. Hence, Il Palio is not just an ordinary horse race. It is one frought with strong emotions, emotions dating back for centuries.

You'll note that there are 10 horses racing and 17 Contradas. Contradas that did not participate in that specific race the year before are automatically in it. The remaining slots are filled by a random draw from the remaining Contradas.

Although the race itself is quite short (a minute and a half or so), the preparations leading up to it and those activities that follow are nothing short of wondrous. There are trials, a parade, flag-waving, blessings (most notably of the horses in the Contradas' respective church), feasts and celebrations. On the day of Il Palio, The Campo is packed with people. Everyone in town and more. Imagine Times Square on the Millenium eve and double it. Over 50,000 people packed into a tiny historic square. That alone is amazing. But wait for the race.

The horses are blessed. (Note that it is considered good luck should the Contrada's steed relieve itself - aka defecate - in the church.) The people are packed in the square twice as tight as sardines. The horses are at the starting rope, already jockeying for position. (Some say that the minutes before the race are as important as the race itself.) Mattresses have been piled in the more dangerous corners to cushion any wayward jockeys. As the tension rings high - they're off! Sprinting around the square, three circuits must the horses make to win. (And note that a rider-less horse may win for it is the horse, not the jockey, that must cross the finishing line.) The danger is apparent as the great beasts pound along on the imported, packed dirt. A few have already crashed in the sides and are even now picking themselves up and redoubling their efforts. Around and around they go as the crowd roars, each person cheering on their champion. At last! Three circuits have been made and the victory line is reached. One is declared the winner amidst great contest and disapproval. Remember, of the 10 interested Contradas only one can call itself the victor. This leaves 9 groups of very unhappy Sienans. Very unhappy Sienans. Then the partying begins and everyone is off for a feast the likes of which put Hogwarts to shame. Wine, wine, food, and wine!

In any case, from what I've seen and read that's what it's like. Some day in the future I will attend one of these fantastic races. If you're interested further I encourage you to check out the 2 italicized links below. We were at The Campo on Aug. 9th or 10th. You have no idea how much we wished our trip extended to the 16th so we could see this thing. Then again, seats are rare and watching it, with a good view that is, is very difficult and potentially expensive. We asked about the bleacher seats right on the outside of the track. I forget the exact price the waitress mentioned but I believe it was in excess of 1,000 euros. Definitely an event best planned well in advance - hotel, seats for Il Palio, etc.

I wonder who won today.

(Official Site - Italian) (Official Site - English)
(Official English Page of Official Site)

(An Excellent Article) (TravelNotes.org) (A Brief Account)

"The reports of my [disappearance] have been greatly exaggerated."

So sayeth the Twain.

Hello again, hello again, a thousand times hello! I have returned from parts not unknown with tales of great wonderment and mystery! Well, not so much of either to be honest but certainly tales of exotic locales and places to visit and things to see.

We spent around 10 days in Florence with side trips to Pisa and Siena. We also spent about 2 days in Paris, most of that without our checked bags. (No, thank you Air France!) Had a good time, saw many terrific things and visited a lot of sites. We hit our fair share of museums - The Uffizi, The Accademia, The Bargello, and the Musee d'Orsay. A few churches - Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, and El Duomo in Siena. We climbed to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. Saw the leaning tower of Pisa. (It's still leaning!) Shopped on the Ponte Vecchio and in the Florence Markets, not to mention the Wednesday ones in Siena. (Wow!) I frequented an Irish Pub, The Fiddler's Elbow, in Florence and hit the noted American dance club there, Space Electronica. T'was a good run of things.

Here is what I am up to these next 2 weeks. I need to catch up on a small backlog of things I didn't do because I left the country for 2 weeks. Then I need to begin the unenviable task of packing up those worldly possessions of mine that lie in Hartford as my apartment here will not be my own come the end of the month. (I.e. I'm packing. And, since I'm a pack rat and notable purchaser of things such as DVDs, books and action figures, I have a lot to pack up.) I'd like to play some computer/video games but we'll see how everything else goes. I will go see some movies in the theater and probably watch some DVDs. (I'm currently working in Joss Whedon's Firefly series. On the plane rides I saw The Interpreter, Fever Pitch, and Robots - reviews forthcoming perhaps.) I also want to hang out with some local friends before I move to an hour from here, one not-quite-last time so to speak. Other than that my schedule is pretty light.

As for the blog, I'm hoping to post more posts about places I visited and things I saw. I'll likely make a master list where you can find an index of these posts. (That index will probably find its way to the link column.) Later today I'll try to put up a post on one unique, very interesting event we learned of - Il Palio. Today is very significant for that event and so you may learn more later.

I also need to flip my wall calendars to August.

That's about that for now. More to come later. Cheers!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bongiorno from Florence!

A brief hello! I type to you from across the Arno in Florence, not far from the Ponte Vecchio. At the moment I am looking at 11:09 left on my remaining purchased internet time. Not inexpensive that so you'll have to excuse me if I keep this somewhat brief. Besides, I'm in Florence - can you blame me if I don't want to spend too much time on this computer?

Four intermediate words: Italian keyboard = a bitch.

(Better than a Japanese or Cyrillic one I imagine. It's the special, non-alphanumeric characters that kill me.)


Just finished a very quick and fruitless Google search for assumedly pewter statues produced by a company called Veronese. They have a line called Myths & Legends featuring a glorious rendition of Justizia, Justice, with scales, sword, blindflold - the works! Looks gorgeous! We saw her in a store in Pisa a few days ago. Hmmm.

We're more or less finished in Italy. We've been to The Uffizi, The Accademia, The Bargello, S. Croce, S. Maria Novella, S. Lorenzo, Pisa, Siena and more. Soooo much. When I get back to the mainland (the states) I'll endeavor to do them more justizia with more-detailed posts.


I'd better wrap this up fast. Tomorrow to Paris for us for a day or two then back to the U.S we go! I'll post again in a few days, like 4-6 of them.

Take it easy! From the heart of Firenze, this is Alan saying Ciao!

Monday, August 01, 2005

I shall see you on the 'morrow!

Today I am off to places unknown! Rather, places known as Florence, Italy. If I find an internet cafe I shall endeavor to post from afar. If not, too bad and you'll hear about things upon my return in approximately 2 weeks.

In the meantime, I've extended the blog front page to include over 20 recent posts. If you get bored with the unchanging, please do check out some of the links to your left.