Monday, December 12, 2005

This Week in Go: A Series of Unfortunate Events

My prediction last week that my Go rating would drop to 25 kyu before it hit 23 kyu came to pass. (Well at least the part about 25 kyu.) After I typed that, I lost six games in a row, for a total losing streak of seven. (The graph above represents the month of December to date.)

I started out by losing an even game to an American 21 kyu player. Because of the difference in rating, that didn't hurt me too much. Then I lost a 5-handicap game to a Dutch 15-kyu player. The handicap was not enough to account for the difference in ratings, so again, I lost less than 20% of a kyu. I dropped a 13x13 game to Ben. The handicap I had given him (based on our ratings at the time the game started) was probably too high -- I'm not that much better than him. The smaller board kept the ratings bleeding to a minimum.

I had started a bunch of games when I headed to India -- I needed something to pass the time. The first of those that finished was an even game I lost to a Swedish 21-kyu player. Again, the rating difference kept the loss to 20% of a kyu. The next loss -- a 3-handicap game to Ben -- hurt the most. I was up by around 50 points near the end of the game. If I had just played r10 with move 202 (instead of passing), I would have won easily. Instead, I lost by 28. Sigh. I then lost again to the aforementioned American 21 kyu (now a 20 kyu). The widening gap led to a loss of only 7% of a kyu for this even game.

The second "Indian game" that concluded was a 3-handicap game against a Japanese 27 kyu. At this point, the ratings difference was less than 2 kyu -- yet I had given him 3 stones. Thanks to a late invasion, I won by only 2 points! My reward was a whopping 58% of a kyu -- that uptick you see at the end of the graph.

My experience represents a nice feature of the rating system. In some sense, it's self-correcting. A 20 kyu who loses 10 even games to 20 kyu won't find himself dropped by the same amount each time. After a while, he'll drop to 21 kyu, 22 kyu, and the rating system will see these as reasonable losses and punish him less.

I have a few upcoming games I know I will win, and a few I know I will I don't know what to expect, except more volatility!


Sunday, December 11, 2005

This week in Nebulas

Last week, I told you I had read 19 Nebula award-winning novels. It turns out that wasn't actually accurate, but I am now up to 22. Here are the additions to my list.

1974: The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed represents some of the best of what this Nebula project has given me -- the opportunity to read science fiction books that address deeper themes than run-of-the-mill airport fiction.

The novel's protagonist, a physicist, lives in an almost 200-year-old anarchist society that has been exiled to a planet's moon. The moon is a harsh society, but the anarchists have developed cooperative methods which allow them to survive, but not thrive. The physicist finds that even anarchistic societies find ways of wielding power, and he eventually finds himself unable to pursue his groundbreaking work on his home world. He becomes the first anarchist to leave for the main planet, where he is welcomed with open arms. But nothing is clear-cut in this novel, and he eventually becomes suspicious of his hosts' motives.

Le Guin, in fact, uses the different societies to examine the ambiguities and compromises inherent in any political system. The novel's subtitle is "An Ambiguous Utopia," and it's even ambiguous to which society this refers. Furthermore, I was pleased that none of it came across as thinly-veiled allegory for Earth societies, although the Cold War themes seemed stronger as the book progressed.

1980: Timescape

Sometimes, however, the Nebula project has led me to above-average, if ultimately forgettable fiction, like Timescape. How do I know that it is forgettable? I started reading this without remembering that I had read it before. Unfortunately, by that time, all of my other books were in my luggage, which I had left at my hotel after checking out (my flight home wasn't scheduled to leave until after 1 in the morning). So I re-read it. Until very late in the book, I didn't remember how it turned out. I blame that -- well, in addition to a poor long-term memory -- on a twist ending that doesn't really flow from the rest of the book.

1988: Falling Free

I enjoyed Falling Free more than Timescape, but it is probably closer to that in terms of weight than The Dispossessed. It's the story of some genetically-engineered humans with arms where their legs should be, and the corporation that treats them like disposable property. They, of course, have an inevitable fight for freedom, which is kind of fun, but fairly predictable.

So I've now read 22 Nebula novels. I have two more checked out from the library, although one is due tomorrow (despite Christina having checked it out on my behalf last week -- some sort of interlibrary loan issue). I should be able to renew it and push my total up by the end of the year.