Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Off to Wordpress

I have moved my blog to http://www.cs.sun.ac.za/~skroon/personal/blog/ . I look forward to your visit. If you have a link to this blog in your blogroll or an article, I would much appreciate it if you could update the links. Thanks, Steve

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My holidays. In short.

20 December: played a 9-handi-plus-komi game against PW. Killed all of his groups. 21 December: drove to Stillbay 22-28 December: with my parents and my sister Kathy at Stillbay. Only notable activities was the annual gathering of the Heese and Klonus clans for the Christmas Tree on 24 December, and Christmas dinner on 25 December (Dalene made the pudding). Other great food Dalene made was "Lekker Lasagne" from her new recipe book. Otherwise, time mostly passed with reading (Casino Royale, and finishing The Saint Overboard), replaying pro Go games, sleeping, playing Canasta, swimming, some walking (mostly on the beach), and general lazing about. 29 December: drove back from Stillbay 30 December: attended George Murray and Minette van der Merwe's wedding: ceremony in the morning, pictures in the Botanical Gardens while guests had juice and some tea eats (spoiled a bit by rain, but we sheltered under an "afdak"), reception at the Hofmeyer Saal (last function before its major renovation), and bring 'n braai for supper at Minette's folks house. 31 December: we hosted a bring 'n braai /games afternoon at our house for New Years. David Muller brought Ingenious and Carcassonne along, and we had a good time figuring them out. I was lucky to win both games by very small margins. Marius and Janette visited, and noted that Marius now has some fancy poker chips. I was just considering buying them, but now I'll have to check his set out, and see what we should do. Braai turned out quite well, but people started drifting off early, and in the end, there were 3 people who entered the New Year with us: Louis de Jager and Ben, playing Go, while Andries and I watched. 1-2 January: Cleaning up after party, house renovations, etc etc. 3 January: I'm back at work. Weep for me!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Promotion; Bachelor's party

Well, I am chuffed to say I've made 1 kyu! I don't really feel comfortable being 1 kyu, since lately most of my wins at 2 kyu have come from my opponent handing me the game from a winning position for them, often a very convincing winning position. But I'm there now, and my challenge is to hold on to my rank without slipping back down to 2 kyu. I have this feeling 1 dan is still far off, though. My promotion came from another victory against Adrian with 30 more komi than necessary, and I was fortunate to follow that up with a win against David Richfield on 5 handi (1 more than necessary, even after the promotion), which game me some points. Adrian was doing fine, but missed a tesuji that killed a huge group. If he'd defended, I would have lost by miles. Against David, I was in a terrible pickle, with a huge dead group in hsi territory. With both of us under time pressure, he defended somewhere unnecessary, rather than on the other (necessary side), allowing my dead group to live. After that, he tried to push me into a loss on time, since we were playing absolute time, but I was able to handle that, and finally he resigned. Last game of the evening, I was demolished by Jonathan on 9 handi. Friday morning I headed off to the Baths, near Citrusdal. It was my first visit there, and I was pleasantly surprised by the whole setup. I drove up there with Wernich and George "Jet" Murray, who was the guest of honour as the bachelor who is getting married at the end of the year. The theme of the party was "Groet die Grotman" (Greet the Caveman). Most of the weekend was just lazing around at the swimming pools and jacuzzis, as well as braaiing, and playing the Settlers of Catan, with the Saturday night reserved for an initiation ritual. The other major excitement of the weekend was Wernich's accident: he dove into the swimming pool after a ball, and went in at too steep an angle. The pool isn't so deep, and he went arms- and head-first into the bottom of the pool. The impact split open his forehead and the bridge of his nose. Jet, a medical student, gave him some prelim treatment, before I went with Wernich to the doctor in Citrusdal. 7 stitches and some medical glue later, Wernich wasn't allowed to wear his glasses and hence drive, and I got my first experience of driving a BMW (and with power steering, and with a diesel engine) when I drove him back. Luckily Wernich is all right, and Jet made it through the weekend safely. Last night, we checked out the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. Great stuff - plenty of thumbs up. I think Daniel Craig pulls Bond off real well. Afterwards, Jet, Hugo and Tiger came to our place and we ate pizza and visited. I think Dalene enjoyed a chance to catch up with Jet, and Dalene, Hugo and I ended up discussing churches and religion, notably the emergent church movement and the AGS church as the evening wore on, and everybody else left.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Reader, be warned. This blog post is about quite a variety of topics. The discerning reader will perhaps find it boring. But after 2 weeks without a post, I've got a backlog, and I'm not going to split it into multiple posts. So, one of the biggest reasons for the silence was that we moved house at the end of November. This was quite an adventure, since we needed to be out of our flat by the end of November, but the tenants in our new flat were only moving out on 1 December. So everything we owned had to be squeezed into a single garage at the new flat, until they had moved out. The place was left a pigsty - the rental agent said it was the worst condition flat she had ever encountered during her career. In with the professional cleaners, then in with the carpet cleaners, both under time pressure, and when we got in, there were still dust and cobwebs everywhere, not to mention the 2 page document listing breakages and damages. And then it took us more than another week to get a second set of keys for the flat. Our special thanks go to Douw and Adrian, who both were extremely kind to help us move and put in as much effort as they did. Our new flat is in the Oewersig complex in Stellenbosch, which is in a less-than-savoury part of town, and despite the electric fence, break-ins do happen (quite frequently, actually). Our place is pretty much done-up with burglar-bars and the works, though. However, on our second day in the flat, it was starting to look like rain, and one of the old tenants, who was still storing stuff in the laundry area, asked if he could put some stuff in the garage out of the rain. So we had to take our car out of the garage. And, lo and behold, the criminal element decided to break into our car that night. Little was stolen: an old torch containing rechargeable batteries, and an expired drivers licence, but they damaged the doors breaking in, and just enough to be irritating without making it worthwhile claiming insurance. Apparently, they caught the guy breaking into another car in the same complex later that night. So now we park in the garage. Last week Monday, we had cell at our place, amid the boxes and chaos. We finished off the Screwtape letters, and many people were glad to see the end of it. It is a challenging book, both from a confrontation and grammatical viewpoint. It was decided that instead of buying each other gifts, the next, closing-off meeting of cell at Werns and Esrie's place would be a Christmas Party. And it turned out to be quite a do: starters with smoked chicken, roast leg of lamb, potatoes, veg and salads for the main course, with a delicious Christmas pudding and cream dessert (made by Dalene). Everyone had a whale of a time, I believe, with The Corrs and Michael W. Smith DVDs providing the entertainment, and the evening ending with prayer and reminiscing. We were thinking about our housewarming, with everything as busy as it was, but an idea finally presented itself, in the guise of the old tenants deciding to leave their fancy braai at our flat, along with us returning from Stillbay just before New Years for George and Minette's wedding. As a result, we're combining our housewarming with a New Year's Braai. If you know me, and haven't been invited, and want to come, email me ;) As for Stillbay, we are pleased that Kathy and my parents will be there as well. Hopefully Ted, Joy, Dylan and Philip will be able to make it as well, but they are busy building at their house in Bloemfontein, so things are still unclear. Seeing all the family means Christmas shopping, and that meant a visit to Tyger Valley on Saturday. It was a 6-hour marathon, but afterwards, we basically had gifts for everyone, and.... a new washing machine! Well, actually, they only delivered the washing machine on Monday, and we haven't used it yet. It can take a load of 13kg, so our kitchen, where it's standing is now substantially full. This washing machine was one of the reasons we moved. Monday's installation was quite a mission though. The wheels seem to be adjustable, but getting the thing level is difficult, since there are only wheels on the front. There is a spirit level built in, and the tolerance for skewness is only one degree. To get it that level in front, makes the machine wobbly from front-to-back though. In any case, after some loud words, we seem to have got it going. But it must still be tested. Last Thursday was Go, and I managed to win 3 games. Two large handicap games were sealed by a large group dying, but my 2 handi game against Jaco was headed for disaster until he lost track of time, and I won on time in a sure losing position. In any case, I'm pretty close to 1 kyu now, even though I still feel I don't really deserve to be 2k yet. We'll have to see what this Thursday brings. After Saturday's shopping, we went to visit Wynand in Parklands. He was having a potjie for his 30th birthday celebrations. This was a great time to catch up - I was good friends with many people there, while I hadn't seen any of them since our wedding. Also, Louis was down from England again, this time bringing his girlfriend Sara along, and he also popped by. A good time was had by all, I believe, and we left close to midnight, tired, but full and satisfied. Sunday was more good eating: Esta and Charlie had decided to subsidise a family Christmas meal for us, Esta's parents and Esta's grandparents, as a Christmas gift. So we popped down to Wellington, where we visited Dalene's grandparents for a while before heading out to Die Koffiehuis, for a fantastic Sunday lunch. This, by the way, is the same venue where the reception was held for Dalene's cousin, Christine's wedding to Willie. And the next day was the cell Christmas party. And then yesterday... Louis and Sara came through to Stellenbosch, and we went out for lunch, to Col'Cacchios. Louis tried the Parma and Rocket pizza, while I opted for the Morituri, and Sara went for pasta with mushrooms, just to gross Louis out. Afterwards, we went to Lecca Il Gelato for some ice cream, before I said goodbye. The rest of yesterday, and most of today, was involved in setting up a CV and preparing an application for a scholarship for next year, which I somehow missed the internal deadline for, since it hadn't been advertised. So, in half an hour, I should be finalising the paperwork, and then I can squeeze it in in time. Now to saving the world: I think "terms of use" for websites are rather absurd. As with software packages and the like. Particularly when you have to check that you have read them to be able to use the site, rather than just recommending you read them, and stating that you agree to bind yourself to them. A recent example was facebook.com, a social networking site (like orkut, hi5, linkedin, etc) that came highly recommended. But I couldn't register without checking the box "I have read the Terms of Use", or something like that. Clicking on the Terms of Use yielded a document which would make a phone book blush. I wasn't going to read it. And, I decided, I wasn't going to lie and say I had. So facebook wouldn't let me register. Tough luck to them. What if everyone started being difficult about stupid TOS requirements? Is it too hopeful that some smart guy somewhere will come up with a way to provide a (real) short version that you can read, and keep the legalese out of the way and non-compulsory?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Go tournament success

This last weekend was the fourth quarter 2006 SA Internet Go tournament, and I was involved in some serious ass-whippin'! I won group 2 in the last tournament, which qualified me to participate in group 1 this tourney, and with Victor Chow, 6-dan, and his wife, Aki Zhou, 5-dan, entering, the field was always going to be tough. I was the weakest player in the group at 2k, with Andrew Davies second weakest at 1k. Ben Gale, 3-dan, was the only other non-shodan in the group. Of course, Round 1, I met up with Aki (playing as JuliusPunk). I was determined to at least lose with style, and went at her with a refusal to back down. This meant I got a fairly decent result in the first complicated corner fight, but then my tenacious tenuki'ing became painful, when my misreads left one of her groups living, while I had to take gote, conceding a ponnuki elsewhere on the board. From there it was mostly one-way traffic, with me taking chances to try reduce the deficit. In the end, I lost 3 corner invasions, of which 1 was distinctly savable, but was lost due to bad reading, and another of which I should have been able to save some of in a ko fight. In the process of (not) "saving" my corner invasions, I destroyed my top side, and damaged my central moyo, and ended up losing by an immense 111.5 points. I know I can do better if I don't try to win, though. One of those strange Go paradoxes. Well, now with nothing to lose, I faced Tristen (overdone) in Round 2, who I have a decent record against in social play. In the end, I overplayed a bit, but managed to weasel life on both sides of his one corner enclosure, not leaving him with much. Then I got into trouble trying to attack him, and was lucky to get away. Once I got out, I launched an attack on one of his groups inside my ex-moyo, and it died, giving me a win vs a 1-dan, and some good index points. Last Round I was up against Chris Visser (ChrisVis), also supposedly a 1-dan. His recent performances overseas and his win against Konrad earlier in the day make me suspect whether he's not a little underranked, but I decided to give it a bash. In the end I was forced down a path I couldn't read out, and made an error defending a corner rather than some cutting stones. This was followed by an invasion, and I was far behind. He followed this up with a large moyo, and was far ahead. However, he continued being aggressive, and opening a larger lead. Eventually a counter attack allowed me to use some aji toat least get one of my dead groups to live (perhaps). He defended in the wrong place, and my aji came to life, leaving him with 3 new dead groups, and saving 2 of my dead groups. A turn-around which I just had to safely steer to a roughly 30-point victory. Undeserved, probably, but I fought hard for it. Another 1-dan win leaves me well in the promotion zone of 2-kyu, and more importantly, 2 wins on the day left me tied for 2nd in the tournament with Ben Gale and Aki Zhou, beating all the 1-dans. And it may give me some nice placing points as well, not that I'm really in the running for a national representation. But maybe one day... If you want to check out the games, you can find them in my game archive on KGS, where the tournament was held. Link: http://www.gokgs.com/gameArchives.jsp?user=thekro. And in-between the games, we popped in at Dalene's uncle's house in Dalsig, where Dalene's dad's family was having their Christmas get-together. Great food and lazing around chatting, but I don't know the people so well, so I felt a bit awkward. Marleen and JC were there at about our age, and the rest of the children were considerably younger (understandable, since Radi's sisters are all much younger than Radi and Oom Johan). There were also a couple of Christmas gifts dished out, so we're looking forward to find out what we've gotten. We had to leave the party before the Springbok rugby started, because Dalene had to go to Sharnelle's stork tea in Bellville. They apparently had a good time, while I returned for game 3 of the tournament. After the game, I found Robert and Andries and Adrian in the Spur, who had just watched us actually not lose a Springbok rugby game we'd been leading at half time. We decided to take out a movie (the Rundown, my recommendation), and went to watch it at Robert,s place, when Dalene joined us there. On the way to his place, we bought some ice-cream, and at his place, he brought me up to date with the newest Weird Al album, which he'd bought on Amazon. Features one particularly humorous video, "White and Nerdy". Check it out, if you can find it. Monday night, we watched a DVD at our cell group, about the size and wonder of the universe, and how it conveys the size, power and majesty of God. This led to a quickly-stalled discussion about life on other planets, and what people think of it, and how it would affect one's religion. Otherwise, we've just been packing, and preparing for our move on Thursday. As of now, the people moving out have still not got a confirmed time for inspection, and their phones (all 3 guys') are off. So, we may well just have to put things in the garage at the beginning, if we can move in at all.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Throwing it all away

This post is about last night's Go. I arrived at Go last night with Adrian, and ended up chatting to Alex, who we bumped into there about our cell group's dynamics, and if/how he fits in there, and what he should do in the coming weeks. During the discussion, Konrad arrived. Our discussion went on a while longer, and Konrad took over the game I was going to play against Adrian. Alex went off to watch a movie, while I watched Konrad beating Adrian. But they were playing sudden-death, and Konrad's time was low, so in the last few moves of the game, Konrad's clock dropped while he had a comfortable lead on the board. I took him on next, with 2 stones. I overattacked from the very beginning, playing tenuki too early in the first joseki of the game. He countered by setting my group drifting, and I tried to convert my flight into a counterattack. Didn't work out too well, but eventually a large ko formed, giving me a chance. It turns out he had a way to get a good result despite the ko, but his greed for an extra 10 points cost him. I got a good result in the third corner after he ignored a ko threat, resulting in me getting a large wall with some of his stones isolated against it. However, I tried to pincer the stones from too close, and he entered the last corner with an attachment on my handicap stone. Eventually, I had captured his isolated stones against my wall, but on a small scale. However, that was enough to give me the game. After that, 4-5 stupid mistakes in 20 moves, and he captured some of the stones surrounding his originally isolated stones for not much compensation at all. There was no way it should have happened that way, but it cost me the game - a harsh lesson, as I went down by 17.5. Next I took on Rory, giving him 3 stones. I missed a chance to capture a huge corner and get off to a really good start, instead ending with a low position on one side, and stones which would later be subject to attack on an adjacent side, while he live in the corner, and with a group cutting me apart. Later, I tried to reduce his framework instead of thoroughly invading. Basically, I got wasted, by 25 points.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What does it take to be "saved"?

Yesterday, our cell group met at our house for the last time before we move. We handled chapter 29 of the Screwtape letters, where Screwtape exhorts Wormwood to look after his patient's physical well-being as far as possible, since his untimely death will result in a failure for the Lowerarchy. Lewis points out that time is the devil's greatest ally in drawing people away from God. This led our discussion to consider the statement that people make that "I am saved", as if it is a once-off thing. We considered if that is really how it works, and if so, what are the requirements to "be saved". Does one just have to believe in Jesus? Do you have to change your life? Do you have to repent? Confess your sins? How about baptism? Is that necessary? Or just an optional extra? If you can "lose" your salvation, when do you lose it, and (how) can you get it back? Well, these are thorny issues, so of course we didn't get down to an actual solution. But the discussion was interesting, especially seeing how different people in the group reacted/responded to the question and discussion.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wedding pics online

Due to a number of requests, I've put some of the wedding photos online. There aren't table photos and the like, since the pictures came to us on a DVD, and flickr only gives us 20Megs upload a month. The group photo also didn't make it, because that's about 10 Megs, so it gets rejected by Flickr. I can hopefully downsample it later, and upload it then. Of course, as part of the upload process, I had to get a place to put photos on the web. I have a gallery at the computer science department, but abusing this for lots of traffic is frowned upon by the admin (and space on the server is limited). Picasa has an online service, but that would entail getting on the internet in Windows, and (a) that ain't happening through the university's firewall at the moment, and (b) that would make adminning it later a pain. Picasa now has a "linux version", which basically means it runs under Wine, but when your Linux is as old as mine, the new Wine doesn't run, and the "linux version" means nothing. So, I had to go with Flickr, which is generally the best online gallery. Except that if you want to do anything useful, you've got to pay a membership fee. Which I'm not planning on doing. So now I have a glorious 100 Mb of space, with 20 Mb of upload per month. Yay! Now that the background is past: here's the link to the wedding pics. Note my fancy name (37963....). I can only replace that with a paid membership, I gather. During the whole upload process, I got into an IM chat with a guy I know who used to live up in Joeys with Andre and Theuns, soc. Turns out he's moved down to CT for da lifestyle. Which means he has a new job and is spending 12 hours + on it per day. Sometimes I'm glad I'm still a student ;) Last Thursday was exciting. I spent the morning racing between 9 PCs tring to run virus scans on them. Some of the PCs had Norton Antivirus on, and they were doing OK, but others were running Avast! Now Avast, despite it's MP3-player interface, is a pretty good antivirus program, as free anti-virus packages go - probably at least in the Top 3 in the English-speaking world. But, alas, it would find the viruses, and then it would not be able to delete them. I refer specifically to the variants of Win32:Warezov. In the meantime, another PC on the same network was so broken by another virus, it couldn't be shut down. By the time I had to leave the network to its own fate and move on to my other responsibilities, I had come to a conclusion: if you use Windows, and local e-mail programs accepting attachments, you are going to get a virus sooner or later. Even with the latest and greatest antivirus tools. However, it's likely to be a lot later with a subscription antivirus package. So do the math. How valuable is your (oft-times confidential) data? If it's important, (a) buy a decent antivirus package, (b) make sure keeping PC software updated is assigned to someone's task list who knows how, and (c) arrange for regular backups (ask me - I'm still struggling to get things going on the Go website after the recent hack, and that was with pretty recent backups). If you're going to go the free route, I still suggest (b) and (c), and as an added precaution, try using an online mail and calendar solution, such as that provided by Google at Gmail (if you need an invite, I've still got). Thursday night yielded a depressing quality of Go for me as well. I got myself into trouble against Adrian, and only serious time trouble saved me from a thumping by Bernard. My last game against Jaco added insult to injury, when he trounced me, mentioning that he wasn't really pushing, since I was obviously playing half-heartedly. Which I didn't think I was. Post game analysis showed that to mean that I was switching between plans (attacking vs moyo) too often, rather than sticking with just one. With all of the excitement last week, I fell behind with my thesis. So I planned on coming in over the weekend to try and play catch-up. However, first there was a conference dance on Friday night - Dalene had given a talk at the Lord Charles' Hotel in Somerset-West, so we scored a free double ticket. Last year we went because Dalene won 2 prizes, but this year, we were just there for the social side. 2 of her colleagues won the prizes this year, so she's still hobnobbing with the top brass. Pity her husband shows no class ;) Jeanne and Douw from our cell group were at our table to provide some familiar faces, but I ended up seated next to an enology student called Riaan. We hit it off quite well, and spent the evening joking, drinking, and eating to our heart's content. I even managed to fit in 2 dances. The next day I decided I'd rather put time in packing for our move later this month, and then head to the office on Sunday. Made some good progress there as well. That evening I helped out at the Stellenbosch Night Shelter, since the supervisor and his wife were at a family funeral. All round, general chaos ensued, but finally I got back home. And packed some more. On Sunday, after some morning packing and a crumbed chicken breast lunch, I headed off to work. In the heat. The plan had been for Dalene to drop me off at work on the way to the shops, but she had instead dropped off on the bed upstairs, so I walked. Which meant I was supremely disappointed when my desire for some water and a comfy chair were thwarted by the failure of the card reader to register my card and open the door at my department. So I headed home. The walk gave me blisters. I will not comment any more. I got home and dropped off. Sunday night: Church. It was the Christmas Song service, and we were warned to be there early, but of course we forgot. Which meant that we got there to find the parking lot and streets in chaos, and not a spot to be had in the church. We decided to walk around the corner, and attended the United Church instead. In contrast, there were 18 people there, including the elders, the priest, and the people leading in the music. It was quite interesting since the sermon was delivered in more of a cell-group, interactive, q&a style. Unfortunately, people weren't that responsive to the questions. I had some comments, but they were more academic and background-oriented, and since I didn't want to stir the pot too much, I kept my trap shut. I was surprised to see a friend who's been at dancing school in Cape Town the past year, Jessica, helping to lead the singing. Topic was: is man a king or a slave (the king perspective from Psalm 8, and the slave perspective from Job 7). This was linked in a rather tenuous fashion to Hebrews 2, why I can't quite say, except that it had something to do with following the example of Jesus. The most fascinating aspect of the sermon to me, was that the metaphor of a weaver's shuttle is used by Job, for the speed with which his life passes. He then says that they "end without hope". What is not clear for the English reader is that the Hebrew words for hope and "thread" are the same, making the metaphor more of a play on words. Pretty cool. And this morning, I got to my office, and the card reader was still busted. Which means my meeting with my promoter came to nothing, and after I got back from that, it was still busted, and then some blokes from the Engineering faculty broke in for us. It seems the computer behind the card reader was down, or something. Anyway, I'm back in my office, now. At last. Oh yeah, I had another fun banking experience, but I've decided it was just a misunderstanding, so I'm not going to rant about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Visit to the Rustic Cafe

Yesterday was Jaco's birthday. So we went out to the Rustic Cafe for a few drinks. Also there were Rory, Charl, Bernard, and Mahen (short for Mahendra, a colleague of Jaco's). Had a good time drinking beer and chatting with friends. Discussion ranged between Go, Final Fantasy, violence in South Africa, the Bush administration and American politics, heteropaternal superfecundation, Charl's irritation with stupid customers, Mahen's Indian heritage and their liking for curries, the dead-end nature of Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg, my honeymoon, the "don't-mess-with-us" attitude of Free State cops, dead people winning elections and collecting pensions, and a number of other topics. Earlier in the evening, I impressed even myself with my skill at making steak, and was fortunate that Dalene wasn't hungry enough to take more than a bite of it...

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Ook dit sal verbygaan"

Yesterday, our cell group took a break from the Screwtape Letters (a book by C.S. Lewis we've been working through), and listened to a sermon from the Moedergemeente in Stellenbosch. Richard preached about the importance of patience and perseverance in conditions which are hard, and when pain and suffering are all around one, and one can not understand what is causing it, or what the reason for it is, or even if there is a reason for it.

His reference text was Habakkuk, who is righting in the context of a siege (of Jerusalem, I believe). He also quotes the philosopher Epicurus in relation to the the theodicy problem (why does a good God let bad things happen?).

The sermon was quite relevant for a number of people, including me, after the stone throwing of the weekend, and the ideas raised yesterday morning about leaving the country. Other people in our cell also have big decisions about potentially moving overseas, and/or have encountered some criminal elements recently.

Other big news is that Ben and Astrid have decided to get engaged.