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Christmas

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Christmas puzzles

I don’t know about Anglo-American or Taiwanese culture, but in Sweden, collaboratively solving puzzles (mostly jigsaw ones) seems to be a tradition, or at least it used to be. I’ve never liked jigsaw puzzles and I don’t have a flat surface big enough for that even if I wanted to. There are other puzzles though, such as Rubik’s cube, which has mostly been something I fiddle with at the same time as doing something else (listening to the teacher, going by bus to Taipei, and so on). The 3×3 requires almost no mental effort nowadays, if I stick to what I already know.

However, on Christmas Eve, I visited friends in Taipei and found out that Gunnar is also interested in solving puzzles like this, although I have a feeling he’s on an altogether different level when it comes to real understanding rather than familiarity. I can understand what I do, but I find it hard to create entirely new algorithms, for instance. Anyway, he lent me a Megaminx, which I solved last night before I fell asleep. It took only a couple of hours of serious thinking, because I reused and adapted lots of algorithms I was already very familiar with either from normal cubing or blindfolded cubing (those algorithms were extremely useful!).


Solved Megaminx.

As is the case with the 3×3, the only difficult part of the Megaminx is the last layer, everything else I could solve without thinking about it too much and at reasonable speed. I ended up correcting last-layer edge orientation the same way as in Petrus’ 3×3 method (i.e. swapping bad edges at an earlier step), and then correcting edge permutation. Corner permutation was done using a variant of Petrus’ 3×3 again, but for the corner orientation, I relied entirely on the quite long algorithms from blindfolded cubing. In all, I would say the Megaminx is a lot easier than the 4×4, for reasons explained below.

During this semester, I’ve also bought and solved a 4×4 (even though that was three months ago now). The problem with the 4×4 is that the centres aren’t fixed as they are on a 3×3 or Megaminx, but rather have to be constructed. Figuring out how to do this is rather easy, and after that, the rest is identical to a 3×3.


My 4×4, exceptionally good quality.

With one exception. Sometimes you end up with an edge pair flipped, which is impossible on a 3×3. The problem is that solving this last edge is really, really horrible. I cheated and got the algorithm from the internet (r ² B ² U ² l U ² r ‘ U² r U ² F ² r F ² l ‘ B ² r ²), and I think I wouldn’t have been able to find this on my own, even given years of time I’m in reality not prepared to waste. Flipping the edge pair earlier is also difficult, because it’s hard to spot this phenomenon early on. With this shortcut, it took me less than an hour to solve the cube the first time. I don’t say this to boast, I do it because I want to show that if you know the 3×3 well, 4×4 is no biggie.

In other cubing news, I’ve also taken a look at a really cool concept, which looks impossible, but turns out to be mechanically identical to a 3×3 (and is thus solved the same way), but uses shape instead of colours. This means that it’s very easy to solve if you can already solve a 3×3, but the feeling in doing so is still extremely odd and well worth the money even if you do it only once. This is what it looks like…


..scrambled


…and solved!

I should also note that my new 3×3 record is 39 seconds, but on the other hand, I’ve almost forgotten how to solve the cube blindfolded. Well, even if it’s Christmas, I suppose I can’t have everything.

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Officially, it’s now Christmas Eve, even though nothing here rembinds me of Christmas save for the omnipresent songs on the radio, in shops, at the university and some random Christmas trees. Here are some reasons why I don’t feel it’s Christmas (there are of course more reasons, these are just examples): the weather forecast says it’ll be around 22 degrees centigrade tomorrow, my family is on the other side of the world, I have PE class tomorrow. Still, it is the 24th and thus Christmas Eve, so I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas.

I plan to celebrate together with friends in Tapei tomorrow (a guy from Sweden and his Taiwanese wife). I’m looking forward both to the dinner and to meeting them again, but I’m not sure what I think about celebrating Christmas in general. I feel that, living abroad, I have two choices, because given that I’m not religious at all, Christmas for me is about things that are impossible to replicate in a foreign country (friends and family). The first choice is to ignore Christmas, which tends to be quite easy (see the reasons above). Since few things remind me of Christmas, this is surprisingly easy. The other choice is to try to celebrate some sort of symbolic version of Chrismas, which I’ll try to do tomorrow evening. I think that’ll be harder, but I’m sure it’ll be nice whether it resembles Christmas or not.

I’ve now depleted whatever pseudo-insightful things I had on my mind, so it’s time to round this off with the greeting that made me write this post in the first place: Merry Christmas, God Jul, 聖誕快樂, Joyeux Noël or whatever you prefer!

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Merry Christmas!

Even though readers in Sweden will have to wait another seven hours, it is now Christmas here in Taiwan. I would like to take this opportunity to say something about both my stay here and my absence from the celebration I am used to at home.

To begin with, Christmas does exist in Taiwan, it just is not as big as it is in most Western countries. There is a quite large minority of Christians here, who of course regard Christmas as very important. I also assume that cultural influence from the United States plays an prominent role, much in the same was as for Halloween both in Taiwan and Sweden. However, Christmas is no official holiday, which means that it is business as usual for schools, universities and companies, even though signs of an approaching celebration has been visible for some time now, including a Christmas tree outside the library, appropriate music in shops and on radio, as well as the occasional exchanges of Christmas cards.

Personally, my Christmas will be very different from every other year in my life. For the first time, I am far away from my family, friends and relatives. Vanessa turned up here yesterday evening, so even though there will be no snow (it is currently almost 20 degrees), there will be plenty of jade to make up for it. The class on Christmas Eve is not cancelled, but instead it is moved to a class mate’s home, where we will have some sort of dinner and celebration together. Of course, other people are also invited, such as Vanessa and other people not in my Chinese class.

This feels like the best possible substitute for a traditional Christmas in Sweden. Although I will miss spending it with my famliy and relatives, I will still have people I like nearby and I am quite sure it will be enough. Besides, my parents will come to Taiwan in less than a month, so I am not serously worried about feelings of homesickness and suchlike. The fact that it really does not feel like Christmas at all  (mostly because of the climate) helps a lot, but I would lie if I said that I do not miss Christmas at home. Anyhow, I am sure that I will have a merry Christmas here anyway, so all that remains now is to wish you one as well: Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas

This is not much of a post, yet. I just want to say: “Merry Christmas!” to whomever happens to drop in. I will update this post later on, but now it is time to for bed. Plans for tomorrow include a lot of pleasant things, so hopefully I will be able to make merry updates as I go along. Until then, take care.

Update: Christmas turned out to be excellent in every way. First, I had breakfast with my parents and my brother, and after visiting my maternal grandfather’s grave, we briefly visited my paternal grandparents. The afternoon and evening was packed mostly with children, and since I thought it appropriate, even though I collapsed shortly after they left around eleven.

As for presents, I received many things I either need or badly want (books, exercise subsidy, iron, etcetera). Me and my brother plan to arrange a dinner with as many of our relatives as possible, so we handed out invitations as Christmas gifts. I am convinced that it will be a splendid evening.

So far, so good in other words. I managed to hurt my neck somewhat when i practiced the day before Christmas, but it did not hurt enough to actually have any effect. i look forward to my remaining three weeks of vacation with pleasure. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to practice, read some of the books I received and also write a fair bit.

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God jul

Jag har kommit fram till att jag gillar att fira julafton i relativt små konstellationer. I och för sig har jag inte haft så stor möjlighet att testa något annat, men det var mycket trevligt idag när vi firade jul sju personer: jag, mina föräldrar, min bror och min syster med tillhörande man och barn. Mormor tittade in en stund på förmiddagen och vi tog en liten tur över till min bror nu på kvällen för ett andra firande, så att säga. Alva har varit hos sina kusiner, men är nu hemkommen. Det har blivit dags att dra sig ditåt för att avnjuta de sista minuterna av julafton med henne. God jul på er!

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God jul

Redaktionen på www.snigel.nu, det vill säga jag, önskar er alla en mysig jul i kommersialismens tecken! Snart kommer farmor och farfar hit och då är det dags för julmiddag och julklappar. Tjingeling!

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Wish list

What follows is a list of books (and other things) I would like to have for various reasons, and all of them are guaranteed to please me highly. If not otherwise specified, I only want books in their original languages. In cases when I do not know the original language, an alternative title has been given in the preferred language. This list is always up-to-date, since I use it myself to keep track of what I want. Whenever I buy or receive books, I remove them from the list. Since I keep detailed information on books I have or have read, it is easy to see if I have already read a particular book by browsing my LibraryThing profile.

This post was last update 2013-11-14.

Fiction
Auster, Paul – New York Trilogy
Auster, Paul – Leviathan
Banks, Iain – The Wasp Factory
Bear, Elizabeth – All the Windwracked Stars
Burton, Tim – The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
Clear, James – Atomic Habits
Chabon, Michael – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Clarke, Susanna – The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Delany, Samuel R. – Babel-17
Diderot, Denis – Jaques the Fatalist
Dixelius, Kalle – Toffs bok
Ellison, Harlan – Dangerous Visions
Forster, E.M. – A Passage to India
Gaiman, Neil – The Ultimate Sandman (all volumes)
Glass, Matthew – Ultimatum
Haddon, Mark – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Huxley, Aldous – The Doors of Perception
Janson, Tove – Allt utom Sent i november och Pappan och havet
Kafka, Franz – Processen
Keret, Edgar – Anihu (The Nimrod Flipout)
Kesey, Ken – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Lethen, Jonathan – Gun, with Occasional Music
Lewis, C.S. – The Screwtape Letters
Mann, George – The Affinity Bridge
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia – Patriarkens höst
Martel, Yann – Life of Pi
Matheson, Richard – I am Legend
McMaster Bujold, Lois – Mirror Dance
McMaster Bujold, Lois – The Vor Game
Morrison, Toni – Beloved
Murakami, Haruki – Kafka on the Shore
Orwell, George – Animal Farm
Pratchett, Terry – Feet of Clay
Pratchett, Terry – Pyramids
Priest, Cherie – Boneshaker
Pynchon, Thomas – Gravity’s Rainbow
Pynchon, Thomas – The Crying of Lot 49
Robinson, Kim Stanley – The Years of Rice and Salt
Rushdie, Salman – The Satanic Verses
Rushdie, Salman – Midnight’s Children
Rushdie, Salman – Shalimar the Clown
Seuss, Dr. – The Cat in the Hat
Shakespeare, William – Hamlet (Arden edition)
Shakespeare, William – Othello (Arden edition)
Shakespeare, William – The Tempest (Arden edition)
Way, Gerard – The Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite
Way, Gerard – The Umbrella Academy: Dallas
Wells, H.G. – The Invisible Man
Willis, Connie – Bellwether
Yang, Mu – Den gröne riddaren
蔣本滸 – 解密

Non-fiction
Allen, David – Getting Things Done
Barthes, Roland – The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies
Bennett, Deborah J. – Randomness
Carson, Rachel – Silent Spring
Churchland, Patricia – Braintrust
Dennett, Daniel – Breaking the Spell
Derber, Charles – The Pursuit of Attention
Huang, Alfred – The Complete I Ching
Kaufman, Steve – The Way of the Linguist
Keller, Laurent and Gordon, Elisabeth – The Lives of Ants
Lavers, Chris – The Natural History of Unicorns
Mlodinow, Leonard  – Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviour
Pariser, Eli – The Filter Bubble
Pinker, Steven – The Language Instinct
Sledge, Eugene – With the Old Breed
Sommer, Christopher – Building the Gymnastic Body
Streeves, Bill – Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – Fooled by Randomness
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Games
Azul
Mille Bornes

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