Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Who is the Strategist: A Book of Five Rings (Part 1)

There are several concepts of what a "Strategist" is- the way in which a man masters the path to victory. Today, we will look at the conception of a strategist as conceived by Miyamoto Musashi.

"Book of Five Rings"

The "Book of Five Rings" (Go Rin no Sho) is the masterpiece of Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary swordsman from Japan, who was active during 16th and 17th centuries (known as the Kyoto Renaissance). He fought from his youth to his old age without losing a match, and killing several opponents in duels, before becoming somewhat of a warrior poet and immersing himself into the more mental and spiritual part of combat rather than the physical. At the end of his life, he wrote this masterpiece that summed up his style and thought on strategy.

Given that Musashi was a swordsman and duelist, his conception of a strategist and strategies tend to be more involved with clashes between individuals, rather than the movement and control of men (as opposed to Sun Tzu's Art of War).

You can find a version of Musashi's masterpiece here.

Content and Organization

Musashi divides his book into five parts, named after traditional religious principles that relate to meditation: They are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void. And each part relates to a specific topic or concept.

The Earth component is the introduction. It talks about the "way of martial arts" as well as Musashi's own style. It is important because it describes how Musashi believes one should practice the way of martial arts: by knowing the large you know the small, and by knowing the shallow you can know the deep.

The Water chapter is about flexibility to circumstances. To understand the principles of swordsmanship so well that by defeating a single opponent, you defeat every opponent in the world. It should be noted here that he says defeating an opponent the wrong way, is not worthwhile. So victory alone isn't right, you need to win "the right way", only then can you become the one who can defeat every opponent by defeating one.

The Fire component is about fighting. In this chapter, Musashi talks of the tactics and methods of combat, as well as the vigilance that is required.

The Wind chapter is about "style". Musashi notes the importance of knowing the different methods and styles of other people. He notes that it is important because if you do not know your opponent, it is difficult to know yourself.

The Void/Emptiness chapter talks of the value of "natural freedom". Once you know the principles of combat, you must be able to be natural and not constrict yourself. Great power and ability comes from natural movement, and from the ability to strike naturally and hit naturally.

We will discuss each chapter, and then come to a conclusion to the type of strategist he wishes the reader to become.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Half-Blog post: Espanol current progress.

I find that the best way to demonstrate understanding of something is to try and teach it.

To test my proficiency (or lack thereof) of Spanish, i'm going to attempt to write this blog post in spanish (sorry about the lack of accents):

Este es una entrada de blog que dice sobre mi progresos en aprendar espanol. En el mes anterior, aprende los conjugaciones de espanol verbos. Durante mi tiempo, Aprende los conjugaciones de "presente", "pasado", y "futuro". Pero no aprende muchos verbos o sustantivos.

Para practice escribir espanol, yo enviaba textos a mi amigos y amigas en espanol. Necesitaba "google translate" para sabi los verbos y sustaintivos. Pero quieria usar mi cabeza para construir las sentencias.

Cuando estoy leyendo los articulos espanol, yo entiendo el profundidad de espanol. Las sentencias de articulos de "BBC el Mundo" es muy diferente de mi sentencias. Los Articulos hablarian "cuando", "como", "donde", y con que emociones los eventos ocurrio.

Entiendo no estoy el "Shakespeare" de Espanol. Mi Sentencias despues de un mes no es muy complejo. Pero, quiero estudiar los sentencias muy complejo para entendar mas. Entiendo los partes mas importante para aprendar.

If you didn't understand that, this is roughly what I said:

This is a blog post that talks about my progress in learning spanish. In the last month, I learned the conjuctions of spanish verbs. During my time, I learned the conjunctions of present, past, and future. But I didn't learn many verbs or nouns.

For practice in writing spanish, I sent texts to my friends in spanish. I needed "google translate" for knowing the verbs and nouns. But I wanted to use my head to constuct sentences.

When I read spanish articles, I understood the depth of spanish. The sentences of "BBC el Mundo" articles were really different from my sentences. The articles talked about "when", "how", "where", and with what emotions the events occurred.

I understand that I'm not the "Shakespeare" of spanish. My sentences after a month are not very complex. But, I want to study complex sentences to understand more. I understand the parts that are most important to learn.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Learning 3 Languages in a Week: Day 3 Japanese and Spanish


I've found a source for my Japanese articles. Unfortunately, its also presented me with a great deal more work. The source is http://news.google.co.jp/, and sadly, the articles are written in a mix of kanji and katakana, of which I have issues.


Here is the next Spanish article in the meantime
Here's time for review. Before I started devoting hours to learning an entire new alphabet (hiragana), I had begun to learn the grammar that structures sentences- given that nouns and verbs are so many (I didn't want to merely focus on vocabulary).

Learning How to Construct Sentences (Spanish)

Essentially, all sentences in English have a subject and a verb, whether apparent or implied. Given that English and Spanish are so similar (even though English is not a Romance language like Spanish), I've decided to treat it as being the same in that regard.

Thus, I decided to first compile a list of pronouns to become familiar with. In English, we have things such as "Him, Her, He, She, Them, We..." because they show up so commonly.

Here is a list I stole from Wikipedia
Additionally, I've also added two things:
  • Esos- "These"
  • Estos/Aquellos - "Those"
To decipher this chart, i've made a few notes:
  • Nominative- refers to naming who is doing the act (much like I, He, She, They, We)
  • Accusative- refers to the direct object (such as Him, Her, Them)
  • Dative- is similar to Accusative, but it is indirect rather than direct
  • Prepositional- Used for objects and complements (I can't find an english equivalent) 
  • Comitative- Complementary uses that are preceded by "con" (with me, with her, with us)
In addition to this, I am complimenting my learning of the grammar with Television. I'm watching the BBC's special spanish learning program "Mi Vida Loco". Which, while a bit cheesy, is at least in spanish that I can follow.

In the meantime, i've been trying to immerse myself in spanish sentence construction the best I can. I essentially communicate through text using spanish only- to the chagrin of my friends.


I've taken a look at Katakana, and decided that despite it being longer than Hiragana, shares a lot of things in common. So perhaps I will be able to learn it more quickly this time. Update soon.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Learning 3 languages in a Month: Day 2 Japanese

My original plan to use articles from the BBC has actually failed in a way. This is because, despite how many languages the BBC website has, it does not have Japanese nor Italian. As a result, I'm having to look for articles from other sources.

Japanese will be a great deal more difficult for me than Spanish given my lack of exposure to it. I can understand a few phrases here and there thanks to watching several Studio Ghibli films with the subtitles on. However, reading it is an entirely different story, and I imagine learning the language (I'm going to be focusing on the phonetic portion of the language) will be VERY challenging. Unlike the languages with a latin root, I won't be able to rely on my knowledge of the roman alphabet.

So in order to be able to read it, I would also have to learn a whole new alphabet.

Following the advice of a native speaker, I began by learning Hiragana, part of the phonetic alphabet of Japanese. t is a sister form to Katakana.

 How Hiragana works

Having the "Hiragana base characters" helped me understand how it was structured.
  • The column determines the first syllable- with the phi-symbol denoting a lack of first syllable
  • The row determines the second syllable. They are basically vowels.
  • Example:  The sound of "Na" would be な. While the sound of "Ni" would be に. Together the sound "Nani" is written as
    なに (which means "what" in Japanese).

I have a bit of a monumental task, as in order to read Japanese, i'll have to not only be able to recognize a whole new alphabet, but also have to learn how it is spoken.

In order to memorize the alphabet, My plan is to begin by recognizing the available sounds: a, i, e, u, o. And the modifiers, k, s, t, n, h, m, y, r, w, and the rest. From there, i'll have to simply grind it out.

I'll probably try to utilize a sort of mnemonic visualization technique to better retain the symbol's appearance. But i'm still uncertain of which one at this point; I'll experiment.


I've fully memorized the 46 Hiragana characters, though I can't really recommend my method, as it did take about 5 hours to perform.

Essentially I tackled the Hiragana 5 one row at a time. I had a few steps I considered with every set though
  1. I always began by writing out each 5 characters
  2. I looked at each character and tried to associate the sound it made with something. For instance the symbol for the sound "a" reminded me a bit of an @ symbol. As such, in my mind I would associate the two ideas, which would help me recall it later on.
  3. I tried to take note of general patterns that occurred. For example, how "Ru" and "Ro" look very similar, and how "ki", "sa", and "chi" were similar. As well as "ke", "ha" and "ho". 
  4. After finishing a new group of five, I would review the past sets that I already learned in order to practice and cement it in my head.
  5. I also tried to make words and phrases when I could, writing out "Mu Sa Shi", or "Wa Ta Shi", "Su Ki Ya Ki" and "Ko Ni Chi Wa". The use of these helped me recall how the hiragana were written more than I expected the to.
  6. I reviewed using flash cards- I would display the sounds and then write out the character, essentially training myself to be able to write on command.

Next Step: Grammar

I plan to use a similar method that I am employing for Spanish.
    Read more →

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    League Comprehensive History: How good is CJ Frost right now?


    If you've followed League of Legends and its professional scene, its hard not be aware of CJ Frost. The team, along with its sister team CJ Blaze, has a history of being one of the oldest and most prestigious League of Legends teams in the Korean scene of OGN. For those in the west, you probably remember them for taking 2nd in the second World Championships after losing to TPA.

    The Old Kings

    In Korea, CJ Frost are essentially one of the most popular teams in Korea along with SKT T1 K. They are essentially perceived as the "Old Kings", a team who has performed consistently well in the competitive scene since its creation. They won the first OGN (back when they were known as MiG Frost), and have historically placed highly in the brackets (only since OGN Winter 2013 have they fallen below 4th place); Up until a few seasons ago, there was not a single final without a CJ team-Blaze or Frost were always in the finals.

    Left to Right: Shy, Rapidstar, Madlife, Woong, Cloudtemplar

    The most popular line up of Frost consisted of:
    • Top-Shy
    • Jungle-Cloudtemplar
    • Mid-Rapidstar
    • ADC-Woong
    • Support-Madlife 
    (This was the team who recently played in the "All-Stars" match against EDG a month ago.)

    The Fall of Frost

    Frost has been traditionally a "Season 2 team", which means it was a team who excelled at teamfighting, and preferred champions who farmed heavily, and tried to draw the game out to late, and win through superior teamfighting. The style was similar to that of then CLG.eu.

    Unfortunately the meta-shifts have not boded well for the members of the team, and they have not adapted especially well. After the Season 2 world championships, their roster began to fall apart. It began with the departure of the "Tank ADC" Woong. Woong was not tauted to be a great mechanical ADC, and many perceived his replacement by Hermes to be something that would make Frost stronger.

    The original Frost roster is begins to fall off

    It was then that Rapidstar, the midlaner began to fall off. Rapidstar's champion pool consisted of heavy farm and slow moving mages such as Karthus, Anivia, and the occasional Diana. With the shift of the meta towards emphasizing early and mid game, Rapidstar had trouble adapting to the new champions. After a few subpar performances, Rapidstar was replaced by GankedbyMom, known as the world's greatest Orianna.

    Then,  in the middle of Season 3, Cloudtemplar, the world's greatest "Herbivore jungler" left the team to pursue a career in casting. Cloudtemplar is perceived as one of the Korean scene's most articulate and intelligent players (hence his easy transition into casting). In fact, you can make the argument that his preferred champion pool helped define Frost's gameplay. Cloudtemplar was well known for playing junglers who had great teamfight potential and tanky stats: such as Amumu, Rammus, Skarner, and is known for his jungle Shen. Essentially, having a jungler who offered low pressure prior to 6 but strong pressure post-6 defined how the Frost lanes would play- they would try to play safe until Cloudtemplar hit 6, and then try to force teamfights after that. Cloudtemplar's playstyle and role on the team was unique, and when he left, Frost could not find an adequate replacement.

    The Rebuilding

    Late Season 3 and Early Season 4, Frost was not performing very well. Their original strengths were made obsolete and unattainable due to meta-shifts and roster changes. Frost was looking for a new identity.

    There were three roles that were constantly changing: Mid, Jungle, and ADC.

    In the Mid lane, Rapidstar's replacement Ganked by Mom wasn't performing up to par. In addition, his lack of a champion pool was problematic, as the enemy could easily force him into certain champions. He could essentially play Orianna, and Zed, and the rest of his champion pool was not as impressive. Frost picked up veteran player Maknoon, but unfortunately he wasn't able to perform adequately either.

    In the Jungle, CJ Blaze's jungler Helios moved over to Frost to replace Cloudtemplar. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to be the playmaker that Frost needed to be successful, often being unable to make plays and forced to gank or cover lanes. He was later replaced by Lira, who had similar problems.

    In bot lane, Woong had been replaced by Hermes, but was quickly replaced by Space after a few poor performances. Space began as a very aggressive player, but later began to play in a style similar to Najin Sword's Pray- who focused on synchronized play with the rest of the team.

    This was Frost's roster for a bit. (Left to right): Shy, Rapidstar, Madlife, Ganked by Mom, Helios, Maknoon, Space

    Frost had an issue of weak mid laners and junglers, which allowed for enemies to take huge advantages over them in early and mid game. While Frost was still able to make it out of groups occasionally through a lucky match up against weaker groups, they were unable to reach their former glory.

    At the start of Spring 2014, Frost dropped its midlaners and junglers in favor of new players newly released from Korean team Xenic's Storm: Coco and Swift. The pair had strong synergy (important for Mid and Jungle) and were able to carry Xenics Storm through several games.

    The new roster consisted of:
    • Top-Shy
    • Jungle-Swift
    • Mid- Coco
    • ADC- Space
    • Support- Madlife
    This new roster has changed Frost's identity greatly.

    A New Identity

    The addition of Coco and Swift changed CJ Frost's identity greatly. Given the aggression of Coco and Swift, the whole field of play changed.

    Coco, the mage carry.

    Coco is a very aggressive and mechanically skilled player. His Kassadin (named Cocodin) was reputed for good reason, and he holds one of the highest KDA's in the game because of it. His repitoire seems to consist of Kassadin (pre-rework), Nidalee, Ziggs, and Leblanc. His play has been on point, and he often makes plays with the support of the jungler swift. So far, he is probably one of the best players on Frost's roster.

    Swift, the playmaker
    Similarly, Swift is also a very aggressive player. Unlike the other junglers of Frost, he prefers to play aggressive junglers who invade and kill the enemy jungler: such as Lee Sin and Kha'ziks. His Lee Sin play is to be feared, as he has the Insec kick down to a tee, and his picks have won them games. He and his partner Coco have essentially carried games for Frost by applying enormous pressure. He often aids top lane and gets Shy rolling, and has made Mundo a terrible pick against Frost due to their skill in diving Mundo early game.

    Perhaps due to the amount of pressure being placed by the Jungler and Mid lane, Shy has begun to awaken in top lane. Shy has been considered one of Korea's greatest top laners along with his equivalent on Blaze, Flame. During the early season, he struggled to carry on Mundo and the other tanky top laners, but as of late he has found his place on Shyvana, and the revitalized Jax. In essence, he has hit "Flame-status", by getting several kills on the enemy team early, and then reaching a massive CS lead, while also pushing down all the top towers and solo-killing the enemy top laner or jungler.

    Despite what you might expect, Bot-lane is probably Frost's least exciting lane. They are not necessarily bad, but they aren't necessarily strong either. Part of the reason is Frost often neglects its bot lane, preferring to use the jungler to snowball top and mid lane early on. This means that Space and Madlife will often choose to farm safely in fear of being ganked. Madlife, though known for hi clutch plays, is not especially active in the early game. The ADC, Space has recently discovered talent in playing Jinx as well as Twitch, but often falls behind in farm from being zoned out. Frost's botlane isn't often seen dominating the lane with aggression, and will usually not make plays unless they have support nearby.

    These new changes have shifted Frost's focus and gameplay from a late-game and teamfight focused team to an early/mid-game focused team who focuses on ganks and picks.

    Recent Performance

    Frost has had one season with this roster, both in Champions and in Masters. In Masters Frost has not lost a game since Week 3, when they lost against SKT TI K. They have an upcoming series against Samsung, who they have a losing record against. However, winning in masters isn't considered very telling, as it doesn't give circuit points; as a result, teams often don't take it as seriously.

    In OGN Spring 2014, they were placed in Group B, made up of generally weak teams, and placed second in the group, only dropping two games to Samsung Ozone. They made it out of groups in second place. Subsequently, they were placed against Samsung Blue and lost in a 3-1 loss. They have recently dropped down to NLB, and managed to defeat SKT TI S in a 2-0. Later this week, they will play SKT TI K in a bout to determine who proceeds to the finals for NLB.

    Its uncertain how strong CJ Frost is at the moment. For certain, no one believes that Frost in its current form is a dominating team. While they have had fantastic games against strong teams such as Ozone, Shield, and even beaten teams like SKT S, its apparent that they aren't fully cohesive yet.
    Frost sometimes gets over eager.

    Frost's Playstyle

    Frost's playstyle is different from the teams of last season, in that they don't "control" games in the way that KTB or SKT does. Instead, their style relies on constant skirmishes and picks. Its a style that depends heavily on mechanical skill, and is actually quite risky- since a lost teamfight gives up a great deal of momentum.

    Their team's success currently depends heavily on their midlaner and jungler providing a great deal of pressure early on- forcing the enemy jungler and midlaner to respond. This allows Shy to fight in a 1v1, and crush the enemy top laner in traditional CJ fashion- occasionally Swift will babysit the top lane to get Shy rolling.  When it comes to midgame, Frost depends heavily on small skirmishes to force picks and fights in their favor.

    The name of the game is Picks. Take down a single champion then proceed to roll over objectives

    Its an interesting style, but it relies heavily on their mechanics rather than decision making, and often relies on somewhat risky warding for map control (Madlife has been caught out several times due to this). Additionally, this is a style that is weak against teams who have very good map awareness and warding (a la Ozone and Blue).

    Significance of Farming

    I believe that Frost still depends on that winning teamfight, and still goes out of its way to prepare for it.

    The interesting thing about Frost is that it will often isolate its carries, and send them to farm. This is quite often Shy in top lane, where he power shoves the lane and tries to outplay the enemy laner, but sometimes Space is left alone in botlane to farm, while the rest of the team does something else. Even when the lane is pushed in, Shy will still stay top lane, and similarly, Space will stay bottom to get the farm.

    This is significant, because it means that Frost isn't aiming to merely take objectives through besieging the turrets. They want to take objectives through kills and skirmishes. In this sense, Frost is not an objective based team-they are still a teamfight oriented team.

    Frost aims to win the game by having more gold, better teamfighting, and stronger champions. This is opposed to KTB last season, who would do their fast-push  strategy, focusing on taking objectives over kills.

    CJ Frost vs. SKT TI K

    If this was last season, I would say SKT 100%. But this season, CJ Frost has improved greatly, while SKT TI K is on tilt with Bengi, Impact, and Poohmandu performing much weaker than they did the season before.
    The Fallen Kings(left to right) Piglet, Bengi, Poohmandu, Impact, Faker
    As far as match-ups go. I believe it currently looks like this:
    • Top Lane: Shy=Impact
      • While Shy might get his beloved Jax, Impact has been playing well with Renekton (often perceived as the counter to Jax). I basically expect the lanes to be Shyvanna and Renekton so long as neither is banned out.
    • Jungle: Swift > Bengi
      • Its hard to argue with this one. Swift's performance and mechanics have been on point this season, while Bengi seems to be struggling. The Lee Sin will be the real contested pick here, Swift is very dangerous on it. Another pick that we might see is Kha'ziks.
    • Midlane: Coco<Faker
      • Coco has been performing very well, but Faker has been performing well despite how K has been doing. Coco wasn't able to stop Dade, and I believe it might be similar with Faker. However, if Faker does not rotate (unlikely) the lane may go even. I expect Coco to fall back on either Ziggs or Leblanc. Faker's champion pool is too large to be able to fully predict what he'll bring out.
    • ADC: Space< Piglet 
      •  As of late, Space has been preferring to use Jinx, a champion that Piglet doesn't really play, and while Jinx is very strong late game, she is not the greatest duelist champion. So if Piglet goes for Vayne and isn't punished for it, Piglet might win this match up. I also expect Twitch to be a contested pick out of both ADCs.
    • Support: Madlife=Poohmandu
      • The two supports have similar champion pools at this point, both preferring playmaking champions: Leona, Thresh, Zyra, Alistar. Currently, I don't believe there to be a large difference in skill level between these two.
    Overall, in a best of 3, I believe it will end up a 2:1 in the favor of SKT K. Despite how far Frost has come, I believe that SKT K has a better sense of map control and team unity. With that said, if Frost is allowed their way, it could easily fall in Frost's favor.
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    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Learning 3 Languages in a Month- Day 1 Spanish

    For the first day of the project, I've decided to start with the language I'm most familiar with: Spanish.

    To start, I picked up an article from the spanish BBC website, and planned my steps:

    The article in question
    To begin, I wanted to have this project be steeped in practicality, so I would judge my success by whether or not I could comprehend what was being said in the article. Additionally, I intended to focus more on the "structure of the words" first, rather than worrying about vocabulary with the verbs and nouns.

    So my first step was to eliminate the words in the article that looked like nouns and verbs. This is something I probably wouldn't be able to do if I didn't have SOME understanding of Spanish. I'll probably have to develop a new method when approaching Italian and Japanese.  I went though and crossed out the words that I recognized as nouns and verbs (some were easy with "el presidente", and others were a bit more questionable).

    I made a lot of mistakes (obvious ones) but its meant to be rough anyways
    From there, I began to look up the meaning of each of the conjunctions. My hope was that I would get a very rough structure of the sentences. I was hoping there wasn't too many strange grammatical changes.

    I compiled a list of grammar just from the first paragraph

    "Y": and
    que: that, than
    que (accent): what
    desde: from
    desde que: Since
    en: in
    de: of
    han: have
    sido: was
    han sido: have been
    del: of
    pais: parents
    del pais: the country
    mas (accent): more
    durante: during
    cualquier: any
    otra: other

    Roughly the first paragraph would say:

    "and its since obama.....en...of.. of two...have been...the country,  more than during any other ....in..."

    Not especially helpful. At this point, I'm considering doing a translation of the English grammatical terms, just so I can recognize them when they come up. But first, I decide to take the first paragraph without the crossed out words and see if I could make sense of them:

    "And its since obama illego a la white house in enero of 2009, alrededor of two million of indocumentados  have been expulsados the country, more than during any other presidency in the history of the north american nacion."
    After putting in the verbs and nouns in, the grammar started to help make more sense. I could even begin to guess what what going on:

    Since obama "illego" (probably entered) the white house in "enero" (probably a month, most likely january) of 2009. Alredador (this term denotes an amount, like "many" or "all") of two million indocumentados (likely immigrants without papers/documents) have been expulsados (looks like the word "expelled") from the country. More than any other presidency in the history of the north american nation. 
    I looked up the terms:

    illego: came
    enero: january
    Alredador: around
    indocumentados: undocumented (duh)
    expulsados: expelled

    Not too bad, if I say so myself


    After the little attempt of today, I've decided to compile a list of "grammar" terms that denoted things like the relation of nouns to one another, and the placement of things. Its going to be split into two sections:

    1. The first section is purely meant to be a list of terms that help string words together- showing their relation to one another. These include things like articles "a, the", conjunctions such as "and, but, because, however", as well as others.
    2. The second section of the list will be terms that help determine things like "time" and "place" in terms of relation. So for instance "before, since, after" are words that determine "WHEN" things happened in respect to another event. Complimentary, terms like "underneath, inside, above, around, and between" determine the position of things in respect to another.
    The reason is because I feel that these are central and core to a language, and really help determine the way in which we communicate. There was a famous philosopher (probably Kant, its always Kant) who noted that we must put things in terms of a "space" and a "time" in order to fully comprehend it. If this is true, then all languages must be able to communicate space and time. Thus, why not pick up on the ways it conveys it now?

    In the meantime, I will look for a potentially exhaustive list of the spanish articles, conjunctions, and pronouns, as well as descriptors of time and place. If I can't find it, i'll make one myself.

    Edit: found a nice site for grammar here
    Read more →

    Learning 3 Languages in a Month

    For a long time now, I've wanted to expand my language base and become truly "Multi-lingual", while at the same time experimenting with my mnemonic technique skillset. Essentially, I intend to discover the best way for me to reach a certain degree of language proficiency in a short amount of time.

    The Goal

    An example of an article in Spanish off the BBC
    For this initial experiment, the goal is:

    "To be able to read an article written in the language". 

    For this experiment, I'll be using articles posted on the BBC, which is supposedly meant to be internationally accessible.

    The Languages

    The three languages I will initially be dealing with are:
    • Spanish (Mexican varient)
    • Japanese
    • Italian
    At the moment, I have some proficiency in Spanish, and some understanding of Japanese. However, I have very little exposure to Italian.

    How to will I go about this?

    This really is the question, and I am actually not certain of the best approach. But I have a few things in mind while going into this:
    1. Don't focus on memorizing vocabulary: While vocabulary shows proficiency in a language, it isn't necessarily the most important thing to know when trying to understand what is being said. Heck, I still run into words in english that I don't recognize all the time, but am often able to intuit what it means.
    2. Start with the grammar: I'm referring to the conjunctions like "and, but, because", as well as other grammatical terms. We use these to construct ALL our sentences, so getting a good grasp of it early is important.
    3. Don't anchor the new language to one you already know: Has anyone ever asked you "do you think in English?" It alludes to the idea that your understanding of other languages is rooted in your mother language. As a result, you'll often find that you'll have to formulate your thoughts in english first, before translating them into the native language. Its necessary at times, but not ideal. For vocabulary, you might be better off rooting them in images.
    4. Immerse yourself in it: The quickest way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it- whether by being forced to use it, or by constantly using it.
    5. Learn the melodic way of speaking- The way people speak in other languages is quite melodic. You can improve your accent by essentially singing the lines.
    Let's get to it.
    Read more →

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    The Fundamental Strategy taught by the game of Nim: The Victory Node


    Matches are commonly used to play Nim.
    Nim is an old strategy game popularized in 16th century Europe, and purportedly played in China. The game is simple, and can be played with simple objects, often using stones or matches. The game is played by laying out lines of objects and taking turns taking objects away. You take objects away by choosing a line, and then taking as many objects from that line as you want. The goal is to force the opponent to take the last object. Its best explained through an example:

    For example.

    The game begins by laying out stones in two lines:

    1. The first player chooses one of the lines (top or bottom), and can take AS MANY stones as he wants from it. (in this case, he can take anywhere from 1-4 stones). Let's say he takes 2 stones.

      Here's how the board looks like this:
    2. Next, the second player does the same. He selects a line, and takes as many stones as he wants. Let's say he chooses line 2, and takes 1 stone.

      The board now looks like this:
    3.  It returns to the first player, who takes 1 stone

    4. The second player takes BOTH stones from the bottom

    5. The first player is forced to take the last stone, and loses.

    The Fundamental Strategy

    At its core, the game of Nim is a mathematical one, and guarantees victory if you don't make mistakes and have the right board positioning.

    It is not a competitive back-and-forth game at all. Allow me to demonstrate:
    Say we have a board position like this:
    We might recognize this as the scenario in our example earlier. The ratio of beads is 1:2. And this board position basically guarantees victory for the person whose turn it is. Supposing that the person plays it our right.

    By taking both stones on the bottom line, it forces the opponent to take the final bead. Of course, you can still lose if you take only 1 stone, or the top line stone, but that would be a mistake.

    Let's expand this, and look at a "losing situation"
    Lets call this the 2:2 board position. If you have this scenario, it is near impossible to win if your opponent knows what he is doing. Lets look at your options (note that both lines are the same, so it doesn't really matter which line you choose)
    1. Taking 1 bead makes it so that you give the opponent the 1:2 ratio board position discussed above. 
    2. Taking 2 beads allows your opponent to take 1 bead, and forces you to lose.
    Let's go one more step forward and see if we recognize a pattern:
    Lets call this the 3:2 board position. This is also a board position where you are guranteed to win if you play it out right. Why? Because it builds off what have established with the 2:2, and 1:2 board set up. 

    By taking away 1 stone, you force your opponent into a 2:2 board position, which is a guaranteed lose if you play it right.

    And so on....4:4 is a loss, 5:4 is a win, 5:5 is a loss, etc.

    There are also games of Nim with multiple lines, but I don't want to get too far into those ideas as of yet.

    What does this Mean?

    I didn't write this article to talk about the method of winning Nim, there are mathematical equations and methods which better describe that. I wrote it out to highlight a fundamental goal behind strategy and strategic interaction: The point where all that matters is your own execution of the strategy.

    I call these points "Victory Nodes". As once you are in that position, the only thing that matters is not making mistakes- your opponents actions don't matter so long as you respond appropriately. The victory nodes are different from straight out winning because you can still make a mistake, but are important to note because they are often able to forecast victory long before it actually occurs.

    A good strategist makes note of these potential Victory Nodes and tries to drive the position of the game towards it, and then sweeps up victory in one fell swoop.

    In essence, a victory node is a point in which your success depends solely on yourself, and is not dependent on your opponent making a non-optimal move or a mistake.

    In other words, to use a victory node:

    You win by putting yourself in a position where your opponent's actions won't produce victory if you respond correctly. All that matters is your own execution of the strategy.

    Of course, with everything, it is often easier said than done.
    Read more →

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Debunking Sherlock Holmes Myths: "Deductive Reasoning"

    "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

         Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four, ch. 6 (1890)
    As with many Holmesian fanatics, the first time we heard the term "deduce" was while reading a Sherlock Holmes story. Prior to that, I had never heard the word before; so I quickly learned to associate the term "deduce" with Sherlock Holmes, as if it was something unique and central to him and his method.

    It was many years later that I discovered that in fact there was an entire segment of Formal Logic devoted to studying "Deductive Reasoning". Being the Holmesian fanatic I was, (and being lured in by the image of a Holmes silhouette in the description) I embarked on a quest to master the skills of Deduction.

    This image was placed in the description of "Deductive Reasoning".

    However, to my dismay I realized something that shattered my reality; The "deduction" that I had always associated with Holmes wasn't utilized by the consulting detective at all!

    Allow me to demonstrate what I mean.

    Logic and Deductive Reasoning

    Lets start by giving you a basic rundown of formal logic.

    In logic, Deductive Reasoning is known as the "top-down" approach (as opposed to Inductive, which is a bottom- up approach). You basically start from general premises or categories, and you work your way down to a specific conclusion.

    For instance, the most famous example is the "Socrates is a man" syllogism. It goes like this:

    (P)All men are mortal
    (P)Socrates is a man
    (C)Socrates is mortal
    You can think of it like this.We have a group of people called "men" and we know a variety of qualities that all people within that group share: they are mortal, they have a Y chromosome, etc. If we are told that Socrates is a person within that group, then we know that he shares the traits of the group- i.e. that he's mortal and has a Y chromosome.

    (This method is different from Inductive Reasoning)

    This method reasoning to a conclusion is actually very different from Holmesian Deduction

    Holmesian Deduction

    Holmesian Deduction is a bit different, and really draws from the word "deduce", which implies to subtract. In a way, Holmesian Deduction is all about shaving off the excess until you're left with the essential pieces.

    The way that Holmes utilizes his deduction is quite simple: He prepares a number of possibilities in his head, and then tests them. The possibilities which are impossible or don't fit, are eliminated. The process continues until he is left with a single possibility that, no matter how improbable, must be the case.

    Essentially, this is how Holmes solves his cases: He collects the facts from various sources, such as visiting the scene or talking to witnesses, and creates a list of possible solutions- and then he tests them one at a time using logic, visual simulation, or experiments. It is in fact, the scientific method as applied to crime solving.

    Holmes' True Method

    So what method does Holmes ACTUALLY use? Is there are formal logic version of his method. Well, essentially there are two major forms of formal reasoning in "Induction" and "Deduction". But there are somewhat less well known forms of logic as well. Such as Abduction.

    Abductive Reasoning is a form of reasoning that goes from Observation to Hypothesis. It observes a situation, say a crime scene, and brings up several hypothesis that are sufficient for causing the crime. For instance, lets say we have this scenario:

    • There was a cookie place on the table in front of three sugar-loving children. Red, Blue, and Green. The cookie must be eaten if touched. 
    • The cookie is now gone.
    • You can abduce (create hypothesis) that:
      • "Red may have eaten the cookie"
      • "Blue may have eaten the cookie"
      • "Green may have eaten the cookie"
    To the many Holmesians out there, this might not look like the method of "deduction" that you have come to be aware of; It doesn't seem to have the "subtracting" of possibilities that I put down as core to Holmesian deduction. However, lets revisit it upon discovering some new information.

    We return to the scene and find out some new information:
    Red was asleep at the time of the cookie eating. 
    In essence, we have added another point to our observations, and as such, the possible hypotheses have changed as well.

    Here are the new hypothesies:
    Observation: The cookie is missing. It could only have been eaten by one of the three children. Red was asleep at the time the cookie was eaten.

    Hypotheses: "Blue may have eaten the cookie", "Green may have eaten the cookie".
    As you can see, when we reevaluate the abduction with new information, we are essentially eliminating possibilities, just like how Holmes eliminates possibilities upon receiving new information. In essence "eliminating the impossible until only left with only one possibility".


    Holmes' method doesn't resemble deductive reasoning at all. Instead, it's much more similar to a form of reasoning known as "Abductive Reasoning".

    Read more →

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    5 minute Logic Tutorial: Deductive Reasoning and Inductive Reasoning

    Alright, here's a 5 minute Logic tutorial on Deductive Reasoning and Inductive Reasoning. In formal Logic, these are the two main methods of reasoning.

    1. Deduction- Top-down approach
    2. Induction- Bottom-up approach
    The "top" refers to a group or category
    The "bottom" refers to an individual or particular instance

    You should be able to pick it up as you read on.

    Deductive Reasoning

    In logic, Deductive Reasoning is known as the "top-down" approach. You go from general qualities of a group to say things about specific instances of that group.

    For instance, the most famous example is the "Socrates is a man" syllogism. It goes like this:

    (P)All men are mortal
    (P)Socrates is a man
    (C)Socrates is mortal
    You can think of it like this. We have a group of people called "men" and we know a variety of qualities that all people within that group must share: they are mortal, they have a Y chromosome, etc. If we are told that Socrates is a person within that group, then we know that he must share the traits of the group- i.e. that he's mortal and has a Y chromosome.

    This is different from Sherlock Holmes' Deduction (Abduction).

    Inductive Reasoning

    Inductive Reasoning is known as the "bottom-up" approach. It goes from a specific instance (or individual) to reaching grand conclusions about the group they belong to.

    For instance, lets say we have Johan, who is a man from country XYZ. If Johan is a smoker and we say that all people from country XYZ are smokers, then we are using induction. Induction.

    As you can see, very common use of this is in Stereotyping, where we take qualities from specific instances (in this case, Johan's smoking) , and assume that it applies to all the people of the group the person belongs to (assume that everyone from country XYZ are smokers).

    Induction tends to be the riskier and more dangerous form of reasoning.

    Read more →

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    18 Cryptograms of Western University (Part 3/Final)

    Recently, it appears that the code has essentially been "cracked". I am essentially just making this post in order to conclude what happened.

    The article can be found here

    According to the article, it wasn't actually a "code" at all, but rather a sort of social art experiment. While 121 letters were hidden a few years ago, it seems they have only had widespread attention at this point.

    The result may not be especially exciting for the code-breaker, or armchair detective, but I suppose it has its own merits. After all, our analysis had suggested that the text wasn't very carefully formatted, suggesting that the attempt wasn't to deliver the entire message. Additionally, there was the oddity of giving several of the same letter (content wise) with nigh negligible differences. Essentially it suggested the idea that there wasn't much to find in the letter content.

    However, I was hoping that they were trying to make a point with the objects and the pictures they chose.

    I hope that I hear from the creator of this at some point. I'm not especially interested in tracking them down, but I would be interested in hearing their reasoning for choosing to do the things they did.

    Until then, Happy Sleuthing.
    Read more →

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    The Interesting Effects of Suey Park and PETA- The Benefits of Appearing Mad

    Craziness works.

    Her twitter feed. 36K in tweets with 21k in followers.
    For those of you who are aware of US pop news, you may have heard about the twitter debacle with #CancelColbert and the twitter sensation Suey Park. Suey Park created a campaign to cancel "The Colbert Show" after a twitter account called "The Colbert Report" posted something she considered to be horribly offensive and racist. Her tweet has exploded, and now the entire internet seems to be aware of her and have come to the consensus that she is crazy.

    And yet, I believe her presence is actually quite positive for supporting the cause of rights for people of color (or I guess Asian Americans, It's hard to pinpoint what she stands for).

    I'm not here to debate whether she is right or not. I'm not even here to analyze her goals and intentions. Instead, i'm here to talk about the effect she has as a highly vocal and highly visible figure. One could actually consider her to be a lot like PETA.

    As you'll soon see, both Suey Park and PETA have a sort of "martyr" effect for the causes they support. They take the negative rapport and stir up a great deal of attention for their cause. Since their causes tend to be something that people are either neutral about or agree with, it reaps all the benefits of the attention without also being tied to the negative press.

    Let's talk a little about these two groups.

    PETA and "All publicity is good publicity"

    PETA (standing for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), for those who aren't aware, is an animal rights activist group. They are well known for their extremely controversial rallies and demonstrations. They are almost always found in the news and the public consciousness given how outlandish their actions and demands are. They are also known to be especially confrontational.

    PETA is very single minded in the way
    it tries to advertise its cause
    PETA is known for using shocking imagery, such as violent and bloody images directed toward children. They often utilize images and methods that stir an emotional response rather than arguments.

    When the Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, they ran an ad of him in a "got milk?" style advertisement, substituting the catch-phrase with "got prostate cancer?" in order to try and associate prostate cancer with milk.

    They don't really pull their punches, and are very opportunistic. In the case of some fishermen being bitten by sharks, they ran an ad that said "payback is a bitch, go vegan" to the outrage of the victim's families.

    Given all this, its hardly a surprise that PETA has a reputation for being crazy.

    The wiki page has more.

    As far as their cause goes. I believe that the idea of "animal rights" is generally not scoffed at, nor really solely associated with PETA. In fact, I would say that people consider PETA to be the "insane animal rights activists group", with the knowledge that there are several less crazy ones. The fact that their cause and PETA itself can be separated is quite important.

    Suey Park's Craziness

    Again, i'm not here to talk about Suey Park as a person. There have been an absurd number of articles judging her arguments and character already, such as this one. Instead i'll just mention some of the effects of her actions.

    The 23 year-old has over 21,000 twitter followers with her "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for the sensitivity for Orientals". So every one of her tweets has a large audience. When she posted the #cancelcolbert hashtag as a call to arms, the whole phenomena took off; it exploded partly because of her large following, partly because it was related to Colbert(who was well known) , and partly because it seemed like a CRAZY thing to say.

    Extreme views draw attention. If this just said "Everyone can be racist", it wouldn't
    draw nearly as much attention.
    It's pretty important to acknowledge the craziness of what she said, as it really did lead to the post exploding. The internet is a large place with enormous amounts of information floating around. If your comments or opinions are normal or standard, they won't stand out. The opinions that everyone notices are the ones that are different, and often extreme. Suey Park's opinion was very extreme, and that's why it ended up becoming a phenomena.

    Her subsequent comments and rather stormy appearance on a Huffington Post interview has caused the internet to go into a frenzy. The consensus of many bloggers and commenters on Reddit is that she is crazy.

    You'd think this would set back the cause she fights for. On the contrary, it brings attention to the cause, and attention that is often neutral. Being "against racism" is something people in the US are all supportive of, and since Suey Park doesn't solely embody that cause, it will gain a lot of neutral or good attention. I find it doubtful that anyone will say "I'm for the mistreatment of people of color because I hate Suey Park".

    What are the Effects?

    The fact of the matter is that PETA and Suey Park bring a lot of attention to their causes. They are both similar in that they have gained attention by utilizing confrontational and "crazy" means. However, the attention is positive for the causes they stand behind since the causes tend to be things that people are either neutral or supportive of.

    It looks a little like this:

    1. Act Crazy
    2. Craziness gets attention
    3. Attention goes to speaker
    4. Attention drips down into cause (to a lesser degree)
    5. Negative association with speaker develops
    6. No negative association with cause because cause is non-controversial
    • Negative association with speaker
    • Lots of attention for Speaker
    • Lots of attention for Cause
    Cause gains from Crazy speaker


    But there are very specific requirements that must be in place before this can work

    1. It works because Suey Park and PETA are not only only proponents of their cause, they just tend to be the most famous and the most visible due to their outlandish actions and words. So they can be called the crazy ones out of a group.
    2. It works because their causes are not especially controversial. People are not especially against "animal rights" nor really against "anti-racism". There's not really a debate happening about whether or not racism is good, its accepted that it is a negative thing at this point.
    Essentially, people are not saying "I will now support Racism because I think Suey Park is crazy". They are more likely to say something along the lines of "I think Suey Park is crazy, and I feel sorry for the people who are actually trying to fight racism because she makes them look bad".

    It works because the attention the crazy person gets will bleed onto their cause, while the notoriety will really only affect the speaker. Remember that those two requirements must be in play though, being crazy for attention isn't always a good thing- bad reputations can easily destroy businesses and careers.
    Read more →

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    The 18 Cryptograms of Western University (Part 2)

    I found some time to think about the cryptograms since my last post. Apparently, there has been another found since then, putting the number to 19. Granted, I don't want to have to constantly rename it, so i'll keep it at 18 cryptograms for now.
    The purported 19th page

    The key fact I decided to consider was the fact that there are really only 4 letters- The Leaf letter, The Gem letter, the Feather Glass, and the Feather Table.The Importance of the picture over the content

    To prove my point:
    Here are the endings of two Gem pages. Notice how the symbols
    are exactly the same. The only difference is that there are significantly
    fewer symbols on the page on the right. The letters I listed above are
    the ones with the MOST symbols and otherwise identical content.

    Every other letter is just a variation of those letters with less content. Which makes me wonder why they exist in the first place. Why would you release letters without the full content? If you were writing a message to someone and sent them multiple, why would you send some that didn't have the full message?

    There seems to be two plausible explanations for that:

    1. The missing symbols are supposed to highlight something
    2. The final symbols are not as important as the picture choice

    Why Explanation 1 is probably wrong

    Now, for the first explanation, this would mean that there was intentional effort spent trying to make sure that certain symbols vanished from the back. This means, it was not simply because they were formatted out. 

    Here's how I tested it. I went on google and searched for the name of the objects such as "Box", "Table", and "Glass". Most of the pictures that showed up were essentially identical to the ones that were seen on many of the letters.
    The 9th image on the first page is quite familiar.
    The very first image appears to be the same one we find on our letters

    From there, I decided to copy the image and scale it without changing the dimensions of it (the ratio between width and height stayed the same). And I proceeded to superimpose it onto our letters with a bit less opacity.

    I matched the sizes of the boxes together. The whiter segment
    is the boundaries of the original image
    I superimposed the table onto the table. The sizes match and the
    super-white parts determine the original boundaries of the image

    So what does this mean?

    Well as you can see, the Box image has lines of 6 symbols long beside it. While the Table image has lines of 7 symbols next to it. Additionally, the start between the symbols and the boundaries are the same in both images. 

    Supposing google is where they got the images, it would mean that the author did not change the dimensions after acquiring the image. They may have scaled it, but they kept the dimensions the same.


    Given that all the images with feathers had 7 full lines. It appears that the author scaled the images so that the height would allow for 7 full lines. However, the author did not care to deal with the width of the images.

    That might not sound like much of a big deal, but that could be deceptive. It suggests that the author did not try to tweak the image's boundaries to make it so that an exact number of symbols was deleted. So for the author, the last few symbols didn't really matter. 

    Instead there were two things that could have mattered more:
    1. The first 7 lines for the feathers staying intact (Added note: this is not the case for gems, nor leaves: see below)
    2. Having an image there, and keeping its width dimensions (ratio wise)

    I should also make a note of something. Compare these two images
    Look at the bottom of the glass. Notice how the one on the right
    is slightly rounder than the one of the left? Also notice how it is
    also more skinny and widens toward the lip?
    What you'll notice is that the two images aren't the same. Well, the second image is one of the first hits you find on google. It's actually NOT where the author got his image. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate where the author found his image as of yet.

    The third image on google is NOT the image used by the author

    The Interesting Case of Gems

    I performed the same process of superimposing the pictures I found on google over the images on the letters to see if the boundaries had changed. While it became quite clear that the author had tried to scale the pictures in the feather image so that they were the same height (allowing for 7 full lines), it was a bit different for gems.

    The Box superimposition was as expected
    However, this one was different
    The Gem box told a different story. Given the boundaries of the picture, it is very plausible that the document decided that it couldn't finish the 7th line. However, given that, the author did not attempt to remedy it (despite being so close). Which suggests that the 7 line may not have mattered so much for the author at all.

    I couldn't find the images for leaves to test yet.

    What does Explanation 2 suggest?

    We've essentially established that the author didn't really care to bother keeping the last few symbols in the letter. Given that, what can we learn from that?

    If the symbols were simply pushed out by the pictures, then it suggests that having the picture with its original height to width ratio is more important than having the full content of the symbols.

    This suggests that the complete content of the letter (symbol-wise) is not actually the most important part of letter(after all, the author has no qualms or cares about getting rid of the last few symbols), and that perhaps the picture is meant to convey much more. 
    However, it should be noted that all the colored symbols still exist. So perhaps they have some significance, and perhaps there is still something to be learned from the text before the final colored symbol.
    I'll ponder it a bit more.
    Read more →

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    The 18 Cryptograms of Western University (Part 1)

    There has been an interesting mystery brewing in Western University of  London, Ontario. 18 pages filled with strange symbols have been found slipped in the middle of various textbooks in the political science and economics department library. Given a puzzle like this, I couldn't find it in myself to turn it down.
    Page 14 of 18

    A First Look

    I suggest taking a look at the letters if you are interested in reading further.

    You can find the album of the letters here.

    Here are a few facts that are immediately noted:

    • The letters appeared to all be found in the poli-sci and economics library
    • Each letter is placed in an envelope and accompanied by an object
    • Each letter has an image on the bottom of the page
    • There is a web address leading to a url: "000xyz.blog.ca"- seems to be a blank page

    A Deeper Look (Framing the Problem)

    Here are a few facts that are realized after looking a little deeper
    • There are only 3 objects: Feather, Leaf, and Gem
    • There are only 6 pictures: Pillow, Vase, Glass, Frame, Box, and Table
    • Someone has pointed out that there are 40+ symbols, which suggests that it might not translate directly into English (with an alphabet of 26 with a numeric bonus of 10 symbols)
    Given that I began to wonder if the objects and pictures denoted anything. So I began to compare the pages with the same object to one another. I quickly found that many of the pages were actually quite similar, and in fact, many of them were identical.

    For instance, Pages 3 and 4 both had Feathers for their objects, with different pictures at the bottom:
    • Page 3 had an Orange Feather, and a Glass picture
    • Page 4 had a Green Feather, and a Table picture. 
    I found that the two pages had the exact same content except for the last few symbols. I decided to perform the same task with the same object and the same picture:
    • Page 4 had an Orange Feather, and a Glass picture
    • Page 8 had a Pink Feather, and a Glass picture
    To my pleasant surprise, the two pages appeared to be completely identical in content. The formatting was entirely the same. I felt like I was onto something, and tested it with a few others.
    • Page 11 has the same object and picture as 4 and 8, and is identical to them
    • Page 12 has the same object and picture as 3 and 7, and is identical to them
    • Page 16 has the same object and picture as 3, 7, and 12, and is identical to them
    This leads me to the hypothesis:

    The object identifies the content of the letter, while the picture within it determines a version of the letter with slight formatting differences. This is given the fact that all letters with the same object and picture were identical.

    I wondered if there was a connection between just the pictures. So I double checked it by looking at letters with the different objects, but the same picture:
    • Page 13 has a Gem and a Box
    • Page 17 has a Feather and a Box
    The two letters were entirely different. Which suggested that there was no immediately obvious connection between the letters with the same letter and different objects. 

    Granted this, I decided to look at the list of letters with similar content (letters with the same objects) and looked at how they compared:
    • Gems
      • Glass pictures have 2 more symbols than Vase pictures and Frame pictures
      • Box pictures have 6 fewer symbols than Vase pictures
      • Table pictures have the same number as Glass pictures
    • Feathers
      • Glass pictures have 2 more symbols than Table pictures
      • Table and Glass pictures have different content (different endings after the last feather symbol)
      • Box pictures have 5 fewer symbols than Glass pictures
    • Leaves
      • Pillow pictures and Vase pictures are the same content wise, but have different formatting
    This means the number of symbols :
    • Gems
      • Glass/Table> Vase/Frame>Box
    • Feathers
      • Glass>Table>Box
    • Leaf
      • Pillow=Vase
    Given this, if we want to see the full content of the letters, we simply need to look at these (you don't have to look at ALL of them from the list):
    • Leaf Pillow or Vase- Pages 1, or 18
    • Gem Glass or Table- Pages 6 or 14
    • Feather Glass: Pages 3, 7, 12, or 16
    • Feather Table: Pages 4, 8, or 11

    So Far

    We have yet to try and apply any cryptography to it, but have noted a few things of interest such as the categorization system, and a few other qualities. It also brings out many questions that very well may bring us towards understanding what the writer (or writers as it may be) were attempting.

    I'm a firm believer that solving a problem consists of finding the right questions to ask. So at this point in time, we can begin to take a look at some of the questions that have arisen from this scenario. 
    • Why so many of the same letters and so few of others? 
    • Why make so many variations of each letter (content wise), when they essentially share the same content?
    • Why make variations of each letter at all?
    • Is there extra meaning behind the objects and the pictures?
    • Is there meaning behind the location and place they were found?
    • Could any of them been copycats and fakes?
    • Are the colored symbols supposed to mean?
    These questions may not be the typical cryptography approach, but may shed some light on the mystery as a whole. After all, in order to break a code, you have to have the information and know the secret. Given that, some of these questions may enlighten us on what it is we may need to know.

    I'm going to brew on it a bit more before writing a second part
    EDIT: Part 2 can be found here

    If you want another source, I suggest going here. Its the blog of the professor who has first hand access to the knowlege
    Read more →

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Malaysia 370- Follow up analysis of possibilities

    My previous article was an analysis of the Malaysia 370 situation. It wasn't meant to provide new information, but rather highlight the likelihood of certain scenarios and the key questions that should be answered. However, analysis isn't the full responsibility of a strategist- there comes a time where he must also decide on a plan of action.

    Possible routes of the Plane
    In this article, I ponder the methods I would employ in order to find out what happened to the aircraft/recover it and the people.

    This will be written from the current situation and point of view.

    Current Situation

    Chinese satellite photo of "possible debris"
    Currently the International community is essentially acting upon the assumption that the plane had crashed within an hour of the last ping. Thus, they are engaging in attempts to find the wreckage. Satellites used by China and Australia have caught sight of several large pieces of wreckage. There are constant flights back and forth, scanning the depths for evidence of a crashed plane.

    I will admit, this does seem like the most likely scenario given what I know. Given the difficulty of the whole scenario, it seems difficult to deny it. The satellite pings from the plane were an indicator that the plane was still "aloft". So the lack of an eighth ping suggests that the plane is no longer in the air. Officials assumed that this meant that it had crashed. Which, I admit, is probably the most likely scenario.


    But what if it hadn't? Is it possible for the satellite pings to stop happening and for the plane to either stay afloat or not have crashed?

    Let's take a look at what this would entail (assuming everything said up till now was accurate).

    Something had to have stopped the satellite pings, this could include signal jamming, a ping system failing, a failure to connect to the satellite, and the plane no longer being afloat (but not crashed).
    • Signal Jamming- This would require either powerful technology, or certain conditions.
      • I would do research in how the ping system works, and what could block it. I would then look at the difficulty and expense in creating a machine that would block those signals. Given that the ping system went on for so long, it would mean that the pilot didn't have the signal jammer or forgot to turn it on until then.
      • It would also be telling of who could have done such a task. If it the plane was trying to fly into a signal-jammer zone, then it means there are signs of cooperation. In order to build a signal jammer of that range and size might also require suitable wealth. Perhaps it would suggest the type of person or group we are looking for.
    • Ping System Failing- plausible. Though highly unlikely. The Boeing 777 is typically considered one of the safest and most well-made planes. For the Rolls-Royce designed engine to just fail like that is unlikely, but possible.
      • This would basically consist of researching the ping system inside the engine and looking at the possibility of a failure in normal conditions.
    • A Failure to Connect to the Satellite- Similar to signal jamming, this could have been caused by things like weather, going out of the satellite's range. From what I understand, the satellite's range was quite large, which leaves weather. I am sadly unfamiliar with how well the pinging system sits with weather.
      • Look at the current weather conditions, the satellite range, and possible satellite and ping system blockers.
    • Plane no longer being afloat (but not crashed)- This basically means the plane landed somewhere. If this happened, it would imply that there were helpers as well as a large strip for the plane to land (make that, an enormous strip). This basically means that it would have had to make contact with a tower that allowed space for landing a Boeing 777.
      • Well, I would look on the land to see possible places in which a plane of that size could land. Additionally, there would be a need in order to hide the plane, as well as guide it to a landing without it crashing. If you look on the map, you might notice some possible spots and locations- I would seek those out. The question here is: what would it take to land a Boeing 777.
      • Additionally there's the issue of the people. How do you keep them quiet? Do you round them up and hide them away? Or do you keep them quiet through more violent means? Perhaps you even dump them out mid flight, but that may be too risky.
      • Of course you might say "it could have landed on the water". Well... if it did, it would likely sink. So the search method would be the same as if I had assumed it had crashed. But if you assume that it landed on water on some sort of landing platform, well you'd be assuming a VERY large landing platform. I imagine it wouldn't be too easy to move that around unless it was pieced together in parts.
    Basically in short, I feel as though those possibilities are not quite as likely. But they are possible. But if the plane stayed afloat and the ping system died, what then? The plane failed to show up on any other radars, so it would have literally vanished into thin air. We're talking about a Donnie Darko plane vanishing here.

    I'll be watching the news closely.
    Read more →

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    The Silver Blaze of Malasyia Airlines Flight 370

    Edit: For clarity, this post is meant simply to provide a perspective and frame of view on the situation. I intended to point out critical points, and highlight likely possibilities. This isn't really meant to provide "new information", as I am not close enough to the actual scene to be able to provide that information. A follow up article about plans for action can be found here

    I've made a mistake recently akin to Sherlock Holmes' mistake in Silver Blaze. I assumed that given the fame and well known circumstance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that it couldn't stay missing for long. But it has been 15 days since, and the location of the plane is still missing.

    However, given that I do not have the means to be scouting the possible scenes of the crime, all I can do is sit and logically parse the scene with a strategic mind.

    The facts:

    Here are some facts collected from a variety of sources. You could always check the Wikipedia page here, if you want to read them in compiled format.

    • Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport heading to Beijing Capital Airport on March 8th at 00:41 local time (MYT)
    • There were 12 crew members, and 227 passengers- the majority of which were Chinese.
    • The plane was a Boeing 777-200ER, registration 9M-MRO
    • At 41 minutes into the flight (1:22 MYT), the transponder and ADB-S turn off
    • At 49 minutes, another aircraft unsuccessfully tries to contact the plane (mumbling)
    • At 1hour and 30 minutes into the flight, the plane begins to make automated ACARS(Aircraft Communications and Reporting System) contact with satellite Inmarset 3F1. Its sort of like a fax machine.
    • At 1hour and 43 minutes (2:15 MYT), there was radar contact of the plane by the Malaysian Military. The plane is now 200 miles NW of Penang
    • Misses flight scheduled arrival time at (6:30 MYT)
    • At 7hours and 30 minutes into the flight, there is one last signal between the plane and the satellite
    The projected route of the plane. As you can see, it strayed from the direct
    course to Beijing and instead headed west.


    Unfortunately, I cannot be on the scene or be aware of all the information going on. All I can really do is bring some possibilities to light given the actions and what has been said.
    1. Key factors- The key questions that should help illuminate the mystery
    2. The first issue is- Accident or Intentional?
    3. The second issue is- If it was intentional, what was the goal?
    4. The third issue is- Who did it?
    5. The fourth issue is- Where is the plane now? What about the people?

    Key Factors

    • The Passengers- The passengers might very well have a desire to get home, so if they had the options to contact the outside world they probably would. The fact that we have not is both suggestive and worrisome.
    • The Route of the plane- The plane began to divert course at about 41 minutes in. The plane then starts heading west. This suggests that its trying to get somewhere, or away from something. If all was desired was a crashed plane, then there's no point in flying outwards.
    • The Tracking of the Plane- If a large Boeing 777 vanishes, you can bet that people will be looking for it. The pressure 239 missing people will probably make a plane visible if it passed by. Then again, if it didn't look like it and didn't give the signal of its registration, then perhaps it could be hiding in plane view (Silver Blaze reference), but then that also leaves the issue of shutting up 277 passengers. If it had flown into some well known location, we would likely hear about it.
    • The Vanishing signal- The plane was giving "handshakes" to a satellite telling its location every hour. You have to wonder why it stopped giving signals when it did- Was it because of time, location, or realization that the signals were being sent (unlikely, the engine is what sends the pings apparently)?
    • Access to Control the Plane- In order to "hijack a plane" you have to take control of it. How would they do that for this kind of plane- especially without any reaction from the people on the plane? Could one person do it alone? Was it done from inside or outside? Was it even hijacked at all?

    Accident or Intentional

    By all the data, it seems there was some very deliberate actions occurring with the control the plane. According to the accounts of US radar experts, the path of the plane after the transponder and ADB-S turned off suggested that it was still under the control of a trained pilot. Of course, it could be possible that the pilot's navigation system had malfunctioned in a grand way, and he thought he was headed the right way.

    The checking of the ocean suggests that experts believe
    the plane to have crashed.
    However, there's also the coincidence that the transponder and ADB-S went offline. The ADB-S is essentially the GPS of the plane- the plane will pinpoint its own location, and broadcast where it is through radio signals. The transponder is used to help control towers identify them on radars (as opposed to UFOs).

    The fact that these both went down at the same time seems to suggest that it was turned off deliberately. But
    the plane continued to ping the satellite later, suggesting that the plane was still functioning. It would have to be quite a specific thing to turn off those two components at the same time. If I knew more about the hardware behind the 777, I might be able to give you a better picture.

    Essentially it seems like quite the coincidence, and when it looks like a coincidence, it probably isn't.

    If intentional, what was the goal?

    I don't pretend to be a mind reader. But even then, there are ways to help you identify what you have in mind. First of all, if we assume that someone has taken over the plane, we can examine what he has gained: control of an aircraft- specifically a large industrial size Boeing-777, control over the lives of 239 people. 

    So what can you do with a large plane? Well, for starters, a plane typically built to transport you. But given the size and difficulty of landing and taking off (not to mention the stigma of having stolen a commercial aircraft), its highly unlikely that the plane was stolen merely for transportation. After all, getting a smaller plane would be easier and more manageable- though you might not be able to get as far with it.

    This is the plane that went missing. See those windows?
    Each one represents a row of seats. This plane is enormous.
    Next, it's important to note that its a Boeing 777. These planes are the world's largest twinjets and have a flight range of 5,235-9,370 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,372 km). To put that in perspective, the earth is 40,075km in circumference. A Boeing 777 can fly a quarter of the earth's circumference in one fell swoop. Given how large they are, they also require large runways for landing and taking off. So that begs the question, if you were going to steal one, where would you put it? The darker side of this was depicted by the USA's 9-11 incident, where the large bulk of the planes were utilized as fast, flying, speeding projectiles to ram landmarks (those planes were Boeing 767s and 757s).

    The fact of the matter is, if you were trying to take the plane, you would probably not have much of an opportunity to land it or hide it. Unless there is a secret runway or location that could be used for a safe (or unsafe) landing procedure that none of the world's satellite and governments are aware of, I find that "stealing a plane" is highly unlikely.

    The only way I could see it sort of working out is for the pilot or someone else to crash the plane (hopefully without killing himself) in an area where it could be quickly salvaged for parts. Perhaps on somewhat shallow water (for a safer landing and camouflage). The pilot would be literally risking his life, and would have to be able to land the plane safely so the parts would not be damaged. It's uncertain what would happen to the people though. The parts would be sold on the black market. However, the question is: Who would want to buy parts of a plane? Specifically a plane everyone is looking for?

    There's also the people. 227 passengers and 12 staff. If it was a ransom situation, there has been no indication of it. Additionally, if you wanted a particular person dead, you could probably get to them in better and more efficient ways- with less risk to yourself. Additionally, you probably wouldn't need to fly for hours after you turned off your transponder and ADB-S if you just wanted to crash the plane. It seemed that he was probably headed toward something (or possibly away from something).

    Of course, if we're assuming he was acting in good faith, perhaps there was a giant flying monster/UFO who not only was chasing the plane to the west, but also either blocked radio signals, or forced the pilot to turn it off. Probably pretty unlikely, but it would be lazy of me to rule it out.

    Who did it?

    The "who" seems to be valued quite highly by people, and I'm not entirely sure why. I'm not seeing the face of the person who did it will make things much better- other than creating hatred towards people the man is associated with.

    An average person would not know what to do with this.
    But anyways, we can look at a few things that may help establish an identity. Assuming that the person controlling the plane was the same who turned off the transponder and ADB-S, then we can presume that he has understanding of how to fly the plane and operate the equipment. So, a trained pilot- of a Boeing 777. 

    This person would also have to be able to access the cockpit, where the transponder and ADB-S are located, as well as the controls of the plane. I'm not sure about you, but I don't think the staff typically takes kindly to random citizens going into the cockpit to hang out with the pilot. Either the staff just decided to let a citizen in (even a disguise probably wouldn't fool them, their crew is only 12), or the pilot(s) is our best bet.

    Of course there's always the "hacker" idea, where somehow a hacker is able to remotely access and control a plane. The task would not be simple, and the method the hacker used would have to be more accurate than the tracking and control equipment the control towers have over the plane. They would have to do all this, without being caught.

    Additionally, it would be quite likely that it wasn't a single person. It's actually far more likely that there were at least a couple people in on the situation. First of all, there are normally a couple of pilots. If one of your pilots began to divert the plane drastically off-course, you'd probably notice. Additionally, if there was some sort of scuffle, you'd hope that someone (either staff or passengers) would hear it. Then again, planes are loud, and passengers tend to be very passive (especially in first class... at night). 

    I understand that we often look for the "who" to establish the "why". But honestly it's really quite difficult to know why people do things, even when you know them very well. How many times have you asked someone you know, "why did you do that"? The reliability of going from "who" to "why" is very low, in my opinion.

    Where is the plane now? What about the people?

    This is the million dollar question, and the one everyone is aiming for. There are hopes that if the plane's black box is found, then everything will come into light. 

    That's a LARGE area to search. I imagine you don't get
    phone service over those oceans.
    It wasn't mentioned how much fuel the plane had, but given that the 777 line of twinjets can fly a quarter of the world's circumference, it potentially could get pretty far. What was interesting was that there was a lack of satellite contact 7 hours and 30 minutes into the flight, when there had been regular ones starting from 1hour in. What stopped the pings?

    There is an hour time frame between the two pings, something had to have happened within that window of time.

    Its important to note that the people on this flight would probably want the world to know they are alive. there are 239 passengers, the likelihood of none of them wanting to let their families know they are alive is essentially nil. This suggests that they are not able to contact the outside world. Suggesting that they are either no longer of this world, or unable to access a phone, or phone service.

    Working off this, if there are people who are alive and want to contact the outside world, either they don't have phones (possible), or don't have service (more likely). I wish that was more helpful, normally I would suggest a search in places where there is no phone service, but in Asia that is a very large space- especially over water. 

    It should be noted that the passengers on the plane may not have been completely aware of what was going on. How often do you fly across the country and wonder "why are we flying north? Oh well..." It would probably take a bit of time before it sunk in and they began to realize that something was wrong. It probably occurred significantly before the plane was scheduled to arrive, and yet the plane seemed to keep going for hours afterwards. Either the people who realized, did nothing. Or they were not able to act for whatever reason.

    Conclusion? (tl;dr)

    Currently, the international community are spending all their search efforts on a large and vast possible volume of ocean. It is of their belief that the plane went down at that point.

    Here's what seems likely to me.

    While it's possible that the plane could be controlled from elsewhere, it seems far more likely that someone was able to take control of the plane from within at 41 minutes. This wasn't met with much resistance from the crew or passengers due to either it being a perfectly acceptable scenario (pilot, or someone who needed to take over for the pilot) or being held down (i.e. take over). It's likely that there was a group of people who cooperated (co-pilot didn't care?).

    The plane began to fly to the west for a reason. It was headed for somewhere or away from something (perhaps away from highly visible areas, cell towers, giant monsters?). It was not just supposed to crash for no reason.

    The plane flew for about 7.5 to less than 8.5 hours before it stopped pinging (was supposed to send a ping to a satellite at 8.5 hours). Given the difficulty/impossibility of disabling the pinging system from inside the plane during flight (especially given what doing the task would need). This suggests that something happened to the plane during that hour. Most experts seem to believe that it went down. Given the 500km/hr route, it's a very large area to search.

    The question would be: What could cause the engine to stop pinging the satellite at that point? 

    Clearly, the most common and accepted response by the international community is that the plane went down- perhaps exploded. Killing all the people on-board (explaining why there hasn't been contact). But then that begs the question: What could cause such a thing? Did the pilot cause it to crash? Why crash it where it did? Was it forced to crash by someone else? (passengers? other sources?)

    But I wonder if there's a possible and plausible explanation for all the facts and situations that doesn't entail the plane exploding. The question would lie in "what would cause the engine to stop pinging"- perhaps landing the plane? As well as "what would be done to shut up all the passengers".

    I'm keenly keeping my eyes on the news.
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