June 8th, 2005


There's a common theme running through these, but I can't tell what it is

1. I'm not going to shut up about this for a while: if you enjoy logic puzzles, whether or not you think you're any good at them, register (register! register! register!) for the online qualifying test for the World Puzzle Championships, taking place at 1pm EDT on Saturday 18th June. If you're positively predisposed towards puzzles - if you're enjoying the Su Doku craze - then don't worry about the competition and you'll still enjoy the test.

Practice is going well. Yesterday I resat the 2000 qualifying test which I hadn't looked at for five years. I scored 120 and it would've been 145 but for a copying error. In 2000, I scored 55 on it, with the top British score being only 90 and the top US score being 220. Perhaps having seen the puzzles before helps a lot, but this is pretty good progress. British folk, 55 was enough to get me onto the British team in 2000; if you can score anything like 55 on the 2000 test - that's just four or five puzzles in 2½ hours - then you really are UK team calibre.

2. At least four people on my Friends list make, or have made, at least part of their living by teaching people how to do well on the SAT, GRE or similar college-entry tests. Now this shouldn't be surprising because y'all are damn smart, but would you like to get to know each other? Is there a community where you can hang out, share tips, find employment in the field and so on? (And why don't you use the WPC online qualifier as a test for logical thinking skills?)

3. Google are providing patronage to students who write software for the good of the world through their Summer of Code promotion - and, if you're so inclined, you can get paid to work on LiveJournal. I can understand people's concerns about Google's privacy policy, they've buggered up the interface for Google Groups and Froogle was a bit naff, but in my book Google do so much good for the world that I have lots of love and time for them. Plus they're sponsoring the online qualifying test and the US team for the World Puzzle Championships.

4. 284,376 LJ accounts, according to the stats, list that the poster is based in the state of Massachusetts (a state with lots of smart people and puzzle fans, who might enjoy the WPC qualifying test). The number of people in Massachusetts with LJ accounts will be lower than that, because people may well have more than one account, but it will be higher than you would expect based on that, because there will be people in MA with accounts who have not listed them as being in MA. Accordingly, let's guess at 200,000 and regard that guess as conservative.

The population of MA is something like 6.2 million. Accordingly at least 3% of people in MA have a LiveJournal, and it seems likely that at least, ooh, 6%-10% of people in MA know what LiveJournal is. These are tremendously high proportions - LJ is approaching being mainstream! (Based on this post to lj_research.)

5. Talking of the stats, you might observe that there are 2.2 million LJ accounts registered male, 4.5 million registered female and 2.1 million registered unspecified. total: 8.8 million. However, there are a total of 7.35 million LJ accounts! What's the discrepancy due to? A vexing puzzle of the sort that you won't find on any online qualifying tests for the World Puzzle Championships.

I asked support and got an answer back quite quickly. It's probably impolite to quote, so you'll have to trust that I'm not misrepresenting the position when I say I was told that the million-and-a-half account discrepancy can be attributed to accounts that have been deleted and possibly purged in the past. Perhaps we can use this figure to estimate some sort of LiveJournal churn percentage. (It is not clear whether those deleted accounts are included in the 284,376 figure quoted above or not.)

6. The BBC report research suggesting that the difficulty some women have in reaching orgasm may be genetic and hint that it's possible that there might be drug therapy some day which could help those who have found that even the most desired partner (if any) and the best technique are not sufficient. This is entirely cheering news and I hope that some appropriate drugs without hazardous side-effects can be discovered. One would expect that such a drug would be bigger news than Viagra.

However, it does illustrate a double standard in me and I'm worried about this. I am not embarrassed by adverts for Viagra, but should such a drug treatment eventually exist, I can't imagine that adverts for it wouldn't be horribly embarrassing. I don't think this is a double standard of mine along gender lines, it's more that the concept of "do something you used to be able to do" is less embarrassing than the concept of "do something you've never been able to do and you feel you're less of a person because of it" - a similar product for men who've never experienced orgasm would be just as embarrassing. I don't know why I feel this way; perhaps it's because it's closer to a purely hedonistic drug than we have legally yet reached. (ETA: I think I've worked this out. See comment.) Cough cough World Puzzle Championship qualifying test.
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    impressed puzzling