## Quick note about the times tables

August 1, 2019 generic, math No comments

I was asked yesterday, why do they teach the multiplication tables in school. Wasn’t sure whether this was common knowledge, but here’s how it goes. Once you know how to multiply the numbers from 1 to 9 with each other, you can multiply basically any two numbers by hand; doesn’t matter how many digits they have.

Let’s say you want to multiply 132 × 18. When you learn your times-tables, these numbers are not covered. But there is a method for you to follow that will just involve multiplying numbers less than 10. It does assume that you know how to add, but learning how to add numbers with several digits is not that hard either.

There’s more than one way to do multi-digit multiplication, but you can find the descriptions here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplication_algorithm.

Of course, youtube has a few demonstrations too, for example:

• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ5qLWP3Fqo
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiI4eZCGTLM

So, 132 × 18 = 2,376. You would be multiplying these numbers on the way: 2 × 1, 3 × 1, 1 × 1, 2 × 8, 3 × 8 and 1 × 8 (which are all really simple!)

Now if you ask why to learn how to multiply numbers in the first place? I find mulitplication comes up quite a lot just in ordinary tasks, doubling baking recipes, find distance from velocity and time, and vice versa, buying quantities of  various items. Sometimes I use a calculator, or spread sheet, but often it’s good to do without. There’s lots of different applications!

## Replacing a toilet

July 27, 2018 challenge, family, generic, systems No comments

After a long time, we replaced our toilet last week. The old one didn’t work well for years and years!

We found these two videos helpful, showing in detail how to remove a toilet, replace the wax ring, and then, install the new one. The second video also comes with written instructions. The videos made it look quite straightforward, and so they were very encouraging; and it did work out quite well. It took just about 2 hours.

But here, I provide numbered steps, to follow along one-by-one, as a detailed plan. This way, you will always know what to do next—which can often be tedious, and the most challenging.

1. Empty space next to toilet, clean, etc.
2. Prepare space to lift old toilet to (Step 16)
3. Put new toilet in place to lift from
4. Flush (old) toilet
5. Wipe down toilet
6. Clean bowl, etc.
7. Turn water valve off
8. Flush until will not flush anymore (remember Step 7: water is disconnected)
9. Disconnect water hose
10. Plunge bowl
11. Sponge bowl dry
12. Scoop out water tank, sponge dry
13. Scrape off silicon connecting bottom of toilet to floor (if needed)
14. Lift lids of screws on the bottom / sides
15. Unscrew the bolts that fix the toilet to the floor
16. Lift toilet out
17. Remove the two bolts
18. Scrape out existing wax gasket
19. Clean floor which was underneath the toilet
20. Place new wax gasket
21. Place new bolts (upside down, on sides)
22. Lift new toilet into place. Make sure back is parallel to wall, level perpendicular and parallel to wall
23. Weight down to smoothe out the wax connection
24. Tighten new screws on bolts
25. Connect water, test flush
26. Cut off tops of bolts (saw)
27. Place lids on bolts
28. Connect new seat
29. Test flush
30. Clean up

This is an optimistic list; if anything goes wrong (e.g., at step 13, 18 or 29), you’re on your own. Our new toilet is just a one-piece, so I didn’t cover the case of a separate water tank.

## Alcoholism: The Sinclair Method

November 14, 2017 challenge, economics, food+drink, generic, systems No comments

As far as I can tell alcoholism is quite a terrible disease. I think I am ok, but I used to be addicted to smoking. I stopped smoking two and a half years ago. I’m glad to not be addicted anymore. But recently I came across a treatment for alcohol addiction. I found it compelling, so I wrote this up this short article!

It is called The Sinclair Method, developed by Dr. John Sinclair in the 1960’s. I’ll try to describe it in a few words: You may have heared of Pavlov’s Dog and what is called “Conditioning”. So the bell rings and the dog salivates because the dog is trained to expect food when the bell rings.

It turns out that Dr. Pavlov also found a way to uncondition the dogs. This happens when the stimulus is presented without the reward. As wikipedia writes, “when a conditioned stimulus is presented alone, so that it no longer predicts the coming of the unconditioned stimulus, conditioned responding gradually stops.”

The Sinclair Method consists in the addicted person taking a drug which makes it so that when they drink alcohol, the brain does not perceive the reward as it was without the drug.

In other words, the Sinclair Method thinks of alcohol addiction as a learned behaviour that can be unlearned. The unlearning takes the “fun” out of drinking. But once you’re addicted and desparate, you may find that not much of a loss. And the drug is otherwise said to be harmless.

I found this approach quite convincing. (It appears the drug does not help with nicotin addiction).

The drugs are called Naltrexone, Naloxone, and Nalmefene, keyword “opioid antagonists”.

The Internet has a lot to say about this method. Please read up:

Reddit has a few related forums:

Thanks! Hope this helps. Please do send me any feedback about this if you have!

## Justice in Texas

December 14, 2013 generic No comments

I don’t know too much about Texas. I hear that patent holders prefer to sue in Texas because the judges have some kind of different attitude about patents. Not much more.

Here’s two outrageous cases of this year.

So two teenagers.

One teenager kills 4 people while driving drunk, and the judge concludes that “the programs available in the Texas juvenile justice system may not provide the kind of intensive therapy the teen could receive at a rehabilitation center near Newport Beach, Calif., that was suggested by his defense attorneys. The parents would pick up the tab for the center, at a cost of more than \$450,000 a year for treatment.”

The other teenager writes something stupid on Facebook and goes to jail for five months. His parents can’t post the \$500,000 bond (who could?) I don’t think there has been a trial yet (which shouldn’t even be held)

## Two executions

December 14, 2013 generic No comments

There were two executions this week.

Reported on the same day.

## Car Collisions at Hastings and Kamloops

January 12, 2012 economics, generic, systems No comments

I walk my daughters to school, once or twice a week (my partner takes them on the other days). It’s ten blocks. They wake up early, so it’s mostly a stroll, no rush; about ten blocks through the quiet side streets.

On the way back I take a different route, along the busy Hastings Street in East Vancouver.

Three times in the last few months, an accident happened at the intersection with Kamloops Street. Car crashes. The first one was while I was at the intersection, talking to a friend at the traffic light.

The third one was the most severe. It happened yesterday, January 11, 2012; this time I had a camera with me:

Hastings Street goes from left to right in this picture, and Kamloops from the top to bottom-left; top is South, right is East. The “other car” had already been moved out of the intersection. Here’s a Streetview link.

I don’t know if anyone was hurt. There was an ambulance, but no movement around it.

All three accidents happened when the 3-lane traffic along Hastings is stopped through a traffic light, so that pedestrians can cross, and cars can cross that are going along Kamloops Street. The cars coming from Kamloops/South collide with cars going East on Hastings. Either the Kamloops cars cross too early or too late, or the Hastings cars ignore/fail to notice the traffic light. I don’t really know.

Now with passing this intersection twice a week over ca. 12 weeks (school started in September), and coming across 3 accidents, it seemed to me the other 3 days of a week should generate the same number of accidents, so it would come to 3 (accidents) * 3 (other days) / 2 (“my” days) = 4.5 “other accidents”, for a total of 7.5 accidents in ca. 3 months. Statisticians will probably point out that this is not a good estimate. But let’s make it 7 accidents in 3 months, or 7 *4 = 28 accidents in a year.

## Statistics / Mapped

That seemed like a lot to me. So I asked another friend if he knows where to get more definite statistics from the city. He pointed me to one of his contacts, who in turn remembered a recent map put together by Eric Promislow:

ICBC Car Collisions 2006-10: A Google Map Visualization

It displays accident counts by intersection for the City of Vancouver, for the years 2006 to 2010. He obtained the numbers from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) – who get the reports from the police.

Nicely done, Eric.

So, for the intersection of Hastings Street and Kamloops Street, there were 117 collisions reported between 2006 and 2010. By year, the counts break down like this:

2006: 17
2007: 23
2008: 25
2009: 25
2010: 27

## Interpretation

So, a more or less regular pattern. One collision roughly every two weeks, for the last 4 years. Predictable. Regular. If you take a look at Eric’s map, you’ll see there are quite a lot of intersections with even more collisions. (In fact, just one block west on Hastings Street, the intersection with Nanaimo Street has many more accidents: 300 for the period, but I never saw anything of those.)

It almost looks like the only ones to be surprised about any of those collisions would be the participants, bystanders and witnesses. When I mentioned the first two accidents to some friends from the area, they said, yes, there are crashes there “all the time.”

Now my calculation from above looks spot-on: I estimated 28 accidents for 2011, and there were 27 recorded for 2010. But all accidents that I counted occurred around 9 o’clock in the morning, since I was walking home from the school.

So I thought, if Eric had the data by time of day, I would be able to compare. But he didn’t. He wrote, “ICBC withholds finer-grained info, claims privacy issues.”

## Questions

I have a few questions:

1. Do the accidents at the intersection of Hastings and Kamloops Street occur mostly around 9 o’clock?
2. Do the morning accidents at the intersection of Hastings and Kamloops Street occur mostly when a car crosses from the South along Kamloops, and the other car is going East on Hastings?
3. Do  intersections with a similar number of collisions have anything in common? What kinds of commonalities?
4. Does it make sense to blame the accidents only on the individuals involved?
5. Does the City of Vancouver track this data and analyze for prevention?
6. Does the City of Vancouver carry any responsibility?
7. What aspects of an intersection can be improved?
8. How many hours of additional driver training reduce the number of accidents by how much (regular training, one-time training)?
9. How many km/h of speed limit reduction result in which reduction in the number of accidents?

About point 3: due to the large numbers of existing collision-prone intersections, and the predictability of collisions occuring, if indeed commonalities exist then one can try out different strategies to lower the numbers, and compare what works and what doesn’t, for example with A/B Testing. Better than doing nothing (my impression). Especially if you think across several cities. I’m not aware of this happening.

Another friend of mine pointed out that causing an accident is not (even) considered a crime. I think that would go a bit far, mainly because establishing who is at cause is quite difficult. But I think it’s worth noting: causing damage, and potentially traumatizing, if not physically hurting, innocent bystanders is actually legally sanctioned to that degree. The proven (proven by statistics such as these) risks are accepted or better, ignored by car drivers.

On the other hand, if 6. was legally accepted, and the City of Vancouver would have to pay for their share of responsibility in a lot of the accidents, I think it would not be able to afford keeping the streets open.

Also, thinking further about this I noticed that car insurance companies are compromised in the sense that for them, the more accidents, the better: more business, more revenue, more stability, more profits. As far as I know, in British Columbia, ICBC is not privately owned and controlled, so that should help working these problems out.

## Oh, well

You know what? I just realized, there were two other accidents on the other side of the intersection in the last few days. But I came across these when picking up my daughters from school, on the way home, so shortly after 3 o’clock. This is getting a bit much. And 2011 looks even worse for this intersection, because my estimate should be based on higher observation counts.

But most of all, I prefer and recommend walkingcycling or taking the bus: that’s what I call civilized.

# Update August 2013

One and a half years later. Things change. I witnessed no more accidents. Didn’t check the statistics though. Writing this post made a difference?

## Accounting for a better world

December 30, 2010 economics, generic, systems No comments

In another weak moment I was pondering progress and whether in some sense people have become better, or the world has become better. It’s a huge topic of course, look it up through a Google search, “Is the world improving?” It will show you a lot of pessimism. On the other hand, Noam Chomsky, an unusually harsh critic (which is excellent since he knows and understands so much), said “Slowly, over time, the world is becoming more civilized, in general“.

My immediate prompt was seeing all this technology around me, an “iphone” here, SSD memory there, oodles of websites with free photos, people coming up with new stuff like bitcoin, quora, about.me, groklaw.net, some dubstep music. It adds up, and it made me think how fast everything is nowadays, and whether people were really slower in the past. There is no one around coming up with loads of, for example, impressive symphonies or novels anymore, as far as I know. There’s loads of average products that one hears about, like for example, Windows Vista. I think being prolific doesn’t quite mean the same anymore. So it’s not clear cut to me.

## How to measure?

Now my pondering led me to think about how could one measure this, how could one find an objective answer, how to do a better job at resolving the question. A connection with my personal ongoing tasks of filing tax returns led to this: as you’re probably aware, accountants are updated about all kinds of goings-on in a business. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could look up the “books” of fifty years ago, 25 years ago, and find “the data”.

I run a small company, The Buckmaster Institute, Inc, and I can well see how accounting is useful, if only in providing one perspective. Every little piece counts, after all. I can understand the accountant’s approach, I have learned from conversations with some professionals. I know about software and how it is used for accounting. I have recommended against the naive use of spreadsheets (still need to write those stories up). I have personal insights into the amount of effort that goes into accounting.

## Resource Allocation

Have you heard about economists talk about “resource allocation”? For example, free markets are declared to be good at “allocating resources efficiently” by to some of those economists. Then this improvement in resource allocation should show up in the “books”, no? In as much as a drop in the efficient allocation of resources would be a sign that the world is getting worse, we might find evidence for the world improving in the financial statements of the businesses of today. Compare the figures to the financial statements from decades ago and we would see whether the world is getting better, maybe only in some small area. But it would be a start.

## Doesn’t work

I think you’ll agree it’s not going to work. They very likely didn’t record the right numbers and amounts.

Should we call it -1 points for the accountants? Or would you go so far as assessing a full  -10 points?

Or do you disagree? Please elaborate by posting a comment below; that would be exciting to learn about! If you think a mere comment would not do your insights justice, please contact me (@stephanwehner on twitter, and we’ll take it from there)

## Related Questions

Other slightly related questions that I have not been able to resolve are:

• What are the recent breakthroughs in the accounting world?
• Who are the heroes of accounting (what Steven Hawking is to black holes)?
• Who do young accountants look up to and draw their inspiration from?
• What are the present “open problems” in accounting? Which obstacles are hindering the full bloom of the profession?
• Whither accounting: Is there a roadmap? Or is it all just  happy-go-lucky?

## Help!

Any hint or pointer would be greatly appreciated! Don’t think your insight might be insignificant. Please don’t think there is a limit on space or time, and we cannot handle all responses. Please help by leaving a comment now. Thanks so much.

## Rock Paper Scissors for Three Players

April 5, 2010 generic, rps 3 comments

In the summer of 2009, if not to say, a long long time ago, Sharon Twiss asked on twitter: “can groups of more than two use Rock-Paper-Scissors?

In case you’re not familiar with the game,  Rock, paper, scissors (wikipedia link)  is played by two people. “Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock”.

## A basic way to play the game with more than two people

It took me quite a while to find this article about Rock, Paper, Scissors at indopedia.org, which explains how the game can be played by more than two:

The game is easily adaptable to more than just two players. This variant works remarkably well, even for large groups. The rules are the same, with the following exceptions:

• If all three weapon types are played, or only one type of weapon is played, the round is considered to be a draw. A new round begins.
• If there are only two different weapon types showing between all of the players, then all of the players showing the losing weapon are eliminated.

## A different way for three players

Let us add another “weapon”, called Lizard, like this:

Weapons and winning sequence for 3 Player Rock Paper Scissors

(I based the illustration image on another one from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre_ciseaux_feuille_l%C3%A9zard_spock.svg by Nojhan )

The game for three players is played like the original version, with this order

• Lizard beats Scissors
• Scissors beats Paper
• Paper beats Rock
• Rock beats Lizard

Count to three, and on three, each player chooses one of the weapons with their hand.

## How to determine the winner with the extra weapon?

What you do is look at the sequence of weapons chosen. For example, here

Player Blue: Lizard, Player Yellow: Scissors, Player Purple: Paper

Player Blue chose Lizard, Player Yellow chose Scissors, and Player Purple chose Paper. Lizard beats Scissors, Scissors beats Paper. So you would say Player Blue, who chose Lizard, won, right?

What to do when two players choose the same weapon? Let’s say like this:

Player Blue and Player Yellow: Scissors, Player Purple: Paper

Both Player Blue and Player Yellow chose Scissors, Player Purple chose Paper. Scissors beats Paper. There are two winners, so now Player Blue and Player Yellow play a round of 2-player Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine the winner.

Let’s look at this case,

Player Blue and Player Purple: Paper, Player Yellow: Scissors

both Player Blue and Player Purple chose Paper, and Player Yellow chose Scissors. Scissors beats Paper, so Player Yellow won. No need for a 2-player round.

Obviously, if all players choose the same weapon, then it is a draw, and the game starts from the top.

## Two different versions of this game

Now we come to a case that has no equivalent in the 2-player version:

Player Blue and Player Yellow: Lizard, Player Purple: Paper

Two player chose the same weapon, and the other player chose a weapon that neither beats the other weapon directly, or is beaten by it. (They are opposite in the circle).

Here I see two options. Either this is declared a draw, or the player who chose the single weapon is declared the winner. I think time will tell which is the better choice.

## Advantage

I’ll try to explain the advantage of adding another weapon in a separate post. Stay tuned!

## Thanks

Thanks go to my friends Sara and Gerry who played this game with me yesterday. Sara won.

## License

All illustrations licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

## rpsmatch.com

Put a website together that allows you to play the game over the Internet: rpsmatch.com. You can either play with one (standard “Rock, Paper, Scissors”), or two other players (“Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard”). Operated by my company, The Buckmaster Institute, Inc.

// This probably still needs some editing, will keep updating //

## buying stuff

March 24, 2009 generic No comments

Got the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) catalog in the mail today (actually one of my roommates).

The catalogue has a funny sidebar on one page about how a couple won a prize in the MEC 2008 video competition. They sent over a \$1,000 gift card, and discovered that the winners are more than half-way through a one year project of not buying any “stuff”.

“The goal is zero landfill waste. For one year we will not buy any material goods. We will buy only consumables, and everything we buy must come in recyclable or compostable packaging.”

Their clean bin blog explains how they got into this and also that they are making a video about the year.

## letter puzzle solution

January 21, 2009 generic No comments

For the solution to the January 13 puzzle please visit

(In case of “broken link”, a copy is at the Internet Archive)

It was solved within a few hours by the rec.puzzle newsgroupÂ  crowd.