Birthday puzzle

The Guardian posted a story in their science section today: Can you solve the maths question for Singapore schoolkids that went viral? The article generated thousands of comments; glancing at a few of them, people have suggested several different answers. So, I'll post my answer below, along with my explanation. If you want to figure it out on your own first, I suggest that you spend some time on that before you read the rest of this post.

The puzzle features Albert, Bernard, and Cheryl. I suppose this offers an alternative to Alice, Bob, and Carol who pop up in all the cryptography scenarios. However, I think that Cheryl is going out of her way to be awkward; that's not the best way to get birthday cards from your friends! I'm also not quite sure why this puzzle is treated as a Maths problem, because it seems to be more about general logic.

As a clue to the answer, this puzzle reminded me of an old joke:

3 logicians walk into a bar.
The bartender asks: "Do you all want a beer?"
The first person says: "I don't know."
The second person says: "I don't know."
The third person says: "Yes."

To understand that, you need to realise that each of the logicians is answering the question on behalf of the group. So, the first person says "I don't know" because they want a beer but they don't know what the other two want. The second person also says "I don't know"; they want a beer, and they can deduce that the first person does too, but they don't know about the third person. The third person says "Yes" because they can deduce that the first two people want beers and they also want one.

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However, I've been discussing this on Facebook and one of my friends disagreed with me. So, a poll!

Poll #2007713 Cynthia's birthday

When was Cynthia born?

15th May
16th May
19th May
17th June
18th June
14th July
16th July
14th August
15th August
17th August

Would you send her a birthday greeting?


Life drawing 3

At the end of February, I went along to my third life drawing session. Once again, I'm only getting around to writing it up the night before the following session!

As I mentioned before, there's a different model at each session; this time, we had a young woman called Penny. (I don't know whether that's her real name or just her "stage name". Also, I wouldn't post her surname here even if I did know it.) Compared to the previous models, this is the first time I drew someone with long hair and glasses: that's an extra challenge, but I think it will be a useful skill if I can get the hang of it. Anyway, I think she did a really good job, and I'd like to draw her again if I get the opportunity.

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There was only one session in March, which I missed because I was off LARPing. However, there are two sessions in April, and I hope to attend both.

Transformers comics

Back in 2012 I started reading IDW's new Transformers comics. 3½ years later, both series are still going and I think that Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is actually my favourite comic each month. Not just my favourite Transformers comic, my favourite comic period.

I've been meaning to write a follow-up post for a while, but my catalyst is the current Humble Bundle: this includes all the issues from both of the current series, up to #37 (published in February). #38 of each series came out last week, so you'll be pretty much up to date with the bundle. More precisely, which issues you get depends on how much you spend; you can "unlock" extra purchases if you pay above average. However, you can get 33 issues of MtMtE as long as you just pay something; the minimum purchase price is literally $0.01. So, if you trust my judgment at all, please go and do that!

This bundle ends at 18:00 GMT on Wed 12th March. So, if you're not sure about this, start with the cheap option and then read through the first collection to see whether you like it. If you do, you can go back to the website and pay a bit more to complete the set. Right now, you will need to pay at least $16.55 to get all 74 issues, although that price may go up a bit before the bundle ends. According to StackExchange, you can "top up" your original payment later (a bit like Kickstarter), e.g. if you paid $7 for the first set then you could pay another $10 to get the rest. The website says that this is "$155 worth of comics", which sounds about right. I subscribe to both series via Comixology, and I pay £2.49 per issue (i.e. about £5/month). Back issues are cheaper, currently going for £1.45 each. You then have to do the exchange rate between dollars and pounds, but however you work it out this is an amazingly cheap way to pick up the series. You can also choose to give some of the money to charity, so you're doing a good deed at the same time.

So, why am I pushing this so hard? Read on for details; I've tried to keep spoilers to a minimum.

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Life drawing 2

Last month I tried out life drawing for the first time. I enjoyed it, so a couple of weeks ago (14th Feb) I went back for another go. Read on for more of my scribblings... I've made an effort to draw some of the musculature this time, rather than just the outer edge of each body part.

We had a different model this time: an older man rather than a younger woman. (I'm being deliberately vague, partly because I don't want to insult either of them by guessing their age incorrectly!) The model used a few props to assist with his poses; I'm not sure whether they were his own or available to all models. I also noticed that he was a lot more assertive than the previous model, e.g. he said "Go!" at the start of each pose (telling us to start drawing) rather than the organiser. Apparently they've been working together for 10-15 years, so that would probably explain it.

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The next session is tomorrow (Sat 28th). They don't announce models in advance, so I'll be interested to see who we get this time.

Full moon swims

As I've mentioned before, I like outdoor swimming when the sun's out: the water looks very inviting when I can see the sunlight reflecting off it. However, at the opposite end of the scale, there's a certain appeal to night swimming. (The Guardian published an article about that a few years ago.)

Technically, I've swum after dark several times, e.g. in the indoor pool underneath Croydon Grants. However, I don't think that really counts: that pool is below ground level, and there aren't any windows, so you can't actually tell the difference between day and night!

Back in June 2013, I went along to a skinny dip at the Pells Pool (in Lewes); this was a fundraiser for the Brighton WNBR, which started in the afternoon and continued after sunset. I enjoyed it, but they had floodlights up so that the lifeguards could see everything and it didn't feel particularly different to swimming in daylight.

Last year I tried to arrange a full moon swim at Tooting Bec Lido. The lido is available for private hire, so my basic plan was to organise (and pay for) the event myself, then ask anyone who turned up to chuck some money into a bucket. If it went well, I hoped that the lido and/or SLSC might be willing to organise future swims. However, this turned out to be easier said than done.

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Instead, I went down to Eastbourne on 9th September with a couple of other people from the SLSC, to meet up with the Eastbourne Sea Swimmers. I must emphasise that this is a completely separate group to the Eastbourne Swimming Club, even though there are some people who belong to both groups. The idea here is to get around the legal issues by having an informal gathering in the sea. It's public property (open to all), so there's no need to hire it, and since it's not an official event there's no need to hire lifeguards: everyone participates at their own risk. However, they did encourage people to bring along glow sticks, so that we could be seen. I didn't get around to sorting that out in advance, but someone else was able to give me a spare, and I tied that around the strap of my goggles.

We left all our bags on the beach, then went into the water, and most people set off for the pier in the distance. I wasn't fast enough to keep up with them, so I just pootled along at my own pace in the same general direction, then I turned back when I saw them returning so that we'd all get back to shore at about the same time. Since I'd been swimming regularly at the lido, I didn't have any trouble with the water temperature, but I wasn't quite so used to dealing with waves and I had to adapt my stroke accordingly. When we finished, there was someone on the beach (who hadn't swum) holding up a light. That was quite useful: I would still have made it back to land ok without that, but I might have ended up on the wrong side of the groyne (the fence thing that sticks out into the water to break up waves). After that, we all went to a local hotel for a drink and a chat, then I came back to London.

Meanwhile, I've also made a few trips to Brighton, where I've met up with the Hove Sea Swimmers. (Again, this is an informal group of people who choose to swim together rather than a legal entity.) I was there in June 2014 for a summer solstice swim, then I went back in early October to make the most of the warm weather.

At the start of January, someone suggested swimming under every full moon this year. That sounded like a good idea to me, so I joined them on 4th January. Collapse )

If anyone would like to join us on a future full moon dip, you'd be very welcome. The OSS have a full schedule, and the next full moon is on Thursday 5th March, although we may shift some of our swims to a different day depending on the weather forecast. If you're based in London, you could also take a look at Secret Adventures. They're organising a swim at every full moon, although their February swim (at a heated pool in Covent Garden) sold out within 3 hours and their March swim (at a lake near Richmond) is already sold out too.

UK CWSC 2015

A few weeks ago (Sat 24th January), I took part in the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido. This runs every 2 years (alternating with the world championships), and I previously took part in 2013; that blog post has some info about how I got involved with swimming at the lido, so I won't repeat it all here. However, it's significant that nobody else from the SLSC recognised me, even though I'd been a member for 3 years.

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2013/2014 in review

I didn't get round to doing a review post last year, so here's a bumper double-edition. (Hey, if it's good enough for TV guides then it's good enough for me.)

Starting with a few stats (and using 2012 as a baseline for comparison):

SJA hours655342235
Distance swum (m)66294611025
Distance cycled (km)367835603209
Eddington number293232
BCQ checkpoints800
Books reviewed954035
Cinema trips834
Theatre trips235
LARP events056

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Life drawing

Last March, I wrote about improving my art. My goal was to make 1 new comic per month, but I haven't even come close to achieving that. So, today I tried a new approach: I went off to a session at the Croydon Life Drawing Group. The idea here is simply to get some practice at drawing, without having to worry about whether it's good enough for the story I want to tell. This went well, and I'm glad that I dragged myself out of bed for it.

I've included copies of my drawings below, which (sort of) contain nudity. I don't think I need a model release for these: I'd be amazed if anyone could recognise the model based on my artwork!

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