Monthly Archives: July 2015

Glaciers!

The cruise sailed through Glacier Bay. It was spectacular.

It was a little crowded to get a good photo in some places without a window in front of the camera though.

  
Eventually, I found a non-crowded spot.

   
 The next day, we visited an even bigger glacier called Hubbard Glacier. 200 metres high, 10 kms across at the base.

   
 

Skagway Railway

Today is a scenic train ride from a town called Skagway. 
Many moons ago, someone found gold nearby. So lots of people came in search of it. They arrived at Skagway and discovered that the gold was 600 miles away. The first 60 or so miles was a treacherous hike, then they had to fashion their own boats to float the remaining distance down a river. 
Eventually, they built a railway. That’s what Ada and I went on. Very pretty scenery.

   
    
   

Juneau

Another smallish town was Juneau, the capital of Alaska. You know it’s small, when a local gives you directions that include “next to the stop light”.

An unusual practise in this town is that if a set of stairs has 100 or more steps, then the government has to maintain it as a street. I guess someone on the local council must have had a big staircase in the past.
The outing for the day was a river float next to Mendenhall glacier, in a glacial (and very cold) lake, followed by a ride down some Rapids. It is such a beautiful part of the world. Even though is was raining a lot. The good thing about the rain was that it was a lot warmer than the actual glacial river water that was a balmy 2 degrees Celsius. 
By the end, the kids were very cold.

   
    
    
 

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is a small and beautiful town that fishes salmon. It’s a beautiful island. The whole area is a temperate rainforest.

  
We roamed the town a little before I went sea kayaking with the older 2 kids. Most of the town is built on landfill over the water, which is easier than building on the hills. The main road through town is called “The Road”. The bus that travels this road is naturally called “The Bus”.

  
Shari took Ada on a duck bus, which meant I could could take the older kids on sea kayaks! Sea Kayaking was awesome. I’ve always liked kayaks, and here we travelled in some gorgeous scenery and saw sea lions, seals, and bald eagles in the wild. 

   
   
When the guides offered spray skirts to keep us dry, most people refused. The kids thought they would make me look silly, so they demanded they I use one so they could giggle at my expense. By the end, when I was mostly dry and both kids were wet and cold, they wished they had one too. Silliness wins again.

All Aboard! The first day at sea

I’ve always been hesitant about cruises. Like most people, I thought they were the domain of old people. As it happens, they are also the domain of families. Shari has always wanted to go on a cruise, so we are on a cruise up the west coast of Alaska, through the Inside Passage. 

We boarded the Norwegian Sun in Vancouver. Immediately, I discovered my favourite bit of the cruise; the view.

   

      
 The first day was sailing, and a good opportunity to find our way around the boat. The kids found the pool in about 5 minutes. There’s several restaurants and bars, so when a cover band starts playing something I’m not fond of, we can move somewhere else. 

  
The room is small, but most of time, we are sitting somewhere nice with an amazing view.

The Labyrinth of Toronto

Not  until we visited a playground on the last day, did we find a labyrinth in Toronto. It was painted  on this mysterious concrete circle.

  

It turns out that the council fills the concrete circle with water every day. Then someone dons a scary protective suit so they can put chlorine in the water. Then kids play in the water.

 

Make it Slower #7 – Random Tree Search for Tic Tac Toe

The Air Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver had more room for a laptop, so I decided to try out an algorithm for game AI, I’ve read about. It’s called Random Tree Search. It’s a bit like Monte-Carlo Analysis for games. Essentially, the computer randomly plays lots and lots of games and counts how many wins, losses, and draws happen on each possible next move. Then the move with the best results is chosen.

I decided to try this on a small scale with Tic Tac Toe, since this is a very simple game that humans can easily play optimally.

I built upon a previous “Make it Quick” effort. And added a simple algorithm to randomly play games, counting the wins.

When I simply used total wins as the criteria, the computer quite often made dumb mistakes. When I changed the criteria to wins – losses. The computer was smarter.

Here is the game. It’s not optimal, but it isn’t completely stupid either.

TicTacToeRTS

My next step will be to upgrade this program to Connect 4.