March 1 2000 RussCon Report

A good turnout: 18 of us, and a large crowd from the start. We have a new Bryan, but the old Bryan (now in Seattle) actually never played at RussCon, so there is no confusion or need for last initial in the database...


The March of Technology:

Marty (keeper of the RussCon mailing list) made a successful tech advance roll, and the list has improved in 2 ways:

(1) All mail sent to the list will have [russcon] prepended to the subject, which will help some folks who like to visually or automatically separate out their russcon mail. (Of course if you are doing this in order to immediately delete them without reading them, there is a more efficient way; tell me or Marty to unsubscribe you!)

(2) When you reply to a [russcon] email, "reply" will reply only to the original sender rather than the entire list. You may still of course manually change a reply message's To: field to the entire list, but now you are forced to more consciously consider whether that's what you want. (Often replies are more appropriately sent to the sender rather than everyone.) If you are replying to the whole list, please consider cutting all but the relevant quoted text from the original.

The mailing list changes are not the only technological advancement for RussCon!

Never one to fall behind the times (well, not too far anyway), the RussCon Management has set up a webpage:

All back issues of the RussCon Report have been archived and indexed with brief annotations for your reading delight and edification. Gosh wow! That's over two years' worth! Old-timers may take a reminiscing stroll down Memory Lane, while young whippersnappers may learn what RussCon was like "back in the good old days".

Challenge your intellect by retracing the evolution of the ratings systems.
Smile at touching personal bonding moments such as drug-addled delirious Jay dubbing JonathanC "Sea Biscuit".
Relive the sweltering agony of the broken air conditioning.
Sneer derisively with 20/20 hindsight at all the discussion of doomed projects like online Nomic and the Fight AI tournament.
Nod sympathetically as Randy ejaculates, "I can't reach Climax!"
Gasp in outraged horror as Brendan uses dog training techniques on his newborn infant.

And so much more. It's all here!

Privacy Statement: Because the URL above is a publicly visible web page which archives previously privately circulated mailing list materials, trained RussCon Technicians have endeavored to obscure occasionally occurring personal information such as telephone numbers, street addresses, email addresses, and genitalia measurements in the original RussCon Reports. Should any RussCon Patron notice personal information pertaining to them which they wish to be further obscured or removed, please notify the RussCon staff and we will cheerfully comply with your request. Offer not valid in all states. Sorry Tennessee!

Thanks to Wendy & Brendan & William for early feedback on the website.


Game Results:

Bluff 6 RussW 5 WendyWhe 3 Marty 1 Andrew -1 Bryan -3 David -5
MammaMia 5 JeffF 4 Jay 2 Alfred 0 BobR -2 William -4
Can'tStop 4 Bob 3 Allen 1 Tim -2 Clayton -2
25WordsOrLess 8 RussW 4 Allen 4 William 4 Clayton 4 Jennifer -4 Bryan -4 Tim -4 Bob -4
ZirkusFlohcati 4 William 3 Jennifer 0 Clayton 0 Tim -3
KingOfTheElves 5 Marty 4 David 2 JonathanC 0 WendyWhe -2 JeffF -4
Vino 5 JP 4 Andrew 2 Alfred 0 Jay -2 BobR -4
Euphrates 3 JonathanC 2 Tim 0 JeffF -2
Frank'sZoo 4 JP 3 Andrew 1 BobR -1  Alfred -3
Survive 3 David 2 Marty 0 William -2
Bluff 4 Alfred 3 JP 1 Andrew -1 BobR -3
StarVenture 4 Bryan 3 Bob 1 RussW -1 Allen -3
MammaMia 5 JeffF 4 William 2 RussW 0 Bob -2 JonathanC -4
Hare&Tortoise 5 Bryan 4 David 2 Marty 0 Tim -2 Allen -4
Othello 2 Andrew 1 BobR -1
Guillotine 4 JP 3 Bryan 1 RussW -1 William -3
Guggenheim 4 Allen 3 RussW 1 William -1 Bryan -3

I witnessed in the Can't Stop game Allen & Bob competing in the 4 column, with Allen 1 space from the top and Bob 2 spaces. Try as they might, they could not roll more 4s. Then Tim, starting at the bottom, rolled 7 4s in a single turn and hit the top, knocking Allen & Bob off. It was truly glorious.

25 Words or Less is an after dinner type boardgame with two teams. Each turn a captain from each team bids on a card with 5 words. The lowest bidding captain then has to use the bid number of words to get their teammates to say the 5 words. It's surprising how few words are needed sometimes. E.g. I think 7 words were used once or twice to get teammates to guess the correct 5 words. E.g. I said the 2 words "and loathing" to get teammates to say "fear". I said "Midnight at the" and Clayton immediately knew "oasis" (to the bafflement of William and Allen). Scoring this team game afterward led to some ratings philosophizing (see below).

Vino is a mostly-deterministic game Alfred brought about the wine business. Bob brought a bottle of wine to accompany it. Alfred, you left 2 Vino pieces which I have saved for you. And that reminds me, somebody left a comb as well.

In Guggenheim, Allen was surprised to learn that some people did not consider "operas" to be an easy obvious category. In retaliation, William picked "sexual fetishes". Oddly, Allen, William, and I all listed identical answers for all 4 entries in that category. (Exercise for the reader: the initial letters were Z, M, P, O.) (And no one thought of an opera starting with Z.)


Rating Subtleties for Team Games:

The Devil Point system works quite nicely in non-team games. Your points are (# you beat) - (# who beat you). E.g. if you win a 4 player game, you get 3 points. If you win a 2-way joint victory in a 4 player game (perhaps as part of an in-game alliance), you get 2 points. Etc.

Now consider a game (like 25 Words or Less) where teams are forced from the beginning (so it's not like a voluntary alliance formed during a game as part of your strategic decision making). Clearly all players on the team should earn the same points. But how many points?

If you consider the team to be a meta-alliance, then the awarded points would work just like a joint victory. E.g. in an 8 player game with 2 teams of 4 players, each of the 4 winners gets 4 Devil Points and each of the 4 losers gets -4 Devil Points. After all, each player on the winning team beat 4 people and was beaten by 0 people. Under this assumption, a player who only played this one game would end up with Win & Rank ratings both equal to 4/7 or -4/7 (your rating is Devil Points divided by # opponents).

However, we noticed that the number of people on a team seemed irrelevant. If we'd played the game with 12 people (6 person teams) does it really seem fair that the winners now get 6 points and the losers -6 points? Regardless of the team size, each team has a roughly 50% chance of winning. Arguably, a team game like this should really be viewed as a 2 player game (where each team (regardless of number of constituent players) is itself one of 2 abstracted players in the game). Thus the winning team gets 1 point and the losing team gets -1 point. But then how does that filter down to the human players on the teams? Unfortunately, simply saying each human player receives 1 or -1 points breaks the whole Devil Point paradigm. 1,1,1,1,-1,-1,-1,-1 is not a consistent awarding of Devil Points (and on a practical note, my Devil Point program rejects such data). Under this assumption, a player who only played this one game would end up with Win & Rank ratings both equal to 1/7 or -1/7, if calculated naively (Devil Points divided by # opponents). On the other hand, under this model there was only one opponent (the whole opposing team), in which case the ratings would be 1 or -1, which makes some sense, but would require nontrivial changes to the program to handle (being able to specify in data entry that a block of players really count as one player).

Furthermore, what if we had an asymmetric game with teams of different sizes. (E.g. a Fury of Dracula type game where a team of several players cooperate as a single meta player to oppose the other lone player). The traditional Devil Point assignments would be 1,1,-2 if a team of 2 won, or 2,-1,-1 if the lone player won. Under the alternate proposal, it should be 1,1,-1 if the team of 2 won, or 1,-1,-1 if the lone player won. This even more seriously breaks the Devil Point paradigm since now the total awarded points doesn't even sum to zero!

Due to the practical matter of my program expecting 4,4,4,4,-4,-4,-4,-4 instead of 1,1,1,1,-1,-1,-1,-1, I have used the former. But it's not obvious to me what the "correct" way of scoring a team game is. I fear it may be that we need to be able to specify that a set of players count as a single player. Feedback welcome.


Evening's Soundtrack:

Christian Death, Iconologia
Elvis Hitler, Supersadomasochisticexpialidocious
Extreme, Pornograffitti
Sparklehorse, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones



Rank ratings:
 0.8462 JP (4 games played)
 0.3333 Marty (4)
 0.3200 RussW (6)
 0.1538 Clayton (3)
 0.1429 JeffF (4)
 0.1250 Andrew (5)
 0.1111 WendyWhe (2)
 0.0667 David (4)
 0.0500 Allen (5)
 0.0000 Alfred (4)
 0.0000 Jay (2)
-0.0385 William (7)
-0.0800 Bryan (6)
-0.1176 Bob (4)
-0.2000 JonathanC (3)
-0.4000 Jennifer (2)
-0.5789 Tim (5)
-0.7333 BobR (5)

New Win ratings:
 0.6923 JP (4)
 0.4286 JeffF (4)
 0.2000 RussW (6)
 0.2000 Allen (5)
 0.1538 Clayton (3)
 0.0769 William (7)
 0.0667 Marty (4)
 0.0000 Alfred (4)
 0.0000 Bryan (6)
 0.0000 JonathanC (3)
-0.0667 David (4)
-0.1765 Bob (4)
-0.1875 Andrew (5)
-0.2222 WendyWhe (2)
-0.2500 Jay (2)
-0.3333 BobR (5)
-0.4211 Tim (5)
-0.5000 Jennifer (2)

JP is the Devil! Marty, Russ, JeffF are Co-Vice-Devils. By the JeffF proposal (breaking Devil ties by # games played), the priority order if JP doesn't show up first is: Russ, then Marty & Jeff tie.

Alfred wins the rare & coveted Extra Average Award (since both his ratings are 0).



Scientists one-up themselves with slow-speed light. 'Optical molasses' likely to find practical applications:

Here's a site called, uh,

In the grim future of Hello Kitty there is only war:

The online Stanislav Szukalski Gallery:
That has some interesting art, plus lots of links to other weird art, like the following:

Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey (an artist at SimTex once showed me the cool book of amazingly intricate anatomical art by Alex Grey):

Tough Men with Iron Balls:

Americans for Purity -- Winning The War On Masturbation:


Jug the hare!
Jug The Hare!