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28 July 2016

Get-Rich-Quick $cheme$!

        "So I got this postcard from my friend and
        it said Let's go to Paris and be writers so
        we won't have to work."
                                                      -- William Faulkner
What does a fellow or girl do who's lazy and self-indulgent and doesn't like to work for a living? The chief trouble with working is Bosses and Alarm Clocks. I don't like getting up early and suddenly in the morning, and I really dislike Bosses.

By the way, did you know that the moment of the week when people have the most heart attacks is Monday morning? My medical advice to everyone is:
Stop Working for Bosses Immediately.
            "Jack's always talkin' about the Workin' Man. The Workin' Man
            wants this. The Workin' Man wants that. You wanna know what
            the Workin' Man wants?  I'll tell ya what the Workin' Man wants.
            He wants to stop workin'."
                                                                -- Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson), "Reds"

Get-Rich-Quick Schemes are extremely important long before they ever make you rich. Daydreaming about the moment you dig up a buried pirate treasure and what you'll do with all the Loot is certainly one of life's great pleasures.

Of course you can't be silly or irresponsible about your get-rich-quick fantasy. It has to be a realistic fantasy; you can't just generically slobber and drool and mutter "Pieces of eight, pieces of eight" all day for years on end. You'll never get anywhere that way.

Here are two realistic get-rich-quick schemes, most of which you can pursue in the privacy of your home computer.
   £   $   ¥   ¢   £   $   ¥   ¢   £

Get-Rich-Quick $cheme No. 1

The Ing Prize

The ancient game Go comes from China and Japan. The rules are very simple, but playing well requires decades of fierce competitive play and intensive study. Most Westerners who play Go are chessplayers who were looking for a new challenge; most players familiar with both games believe Go is more difficult than chess.

Go game in progress. Black made the first move; thereafter Black and White alternately place a stone on one of the 19 x 19 intersections (or a player may pass). Go games typically generate aesthetically beautiful patterns of stones; some players say the beauty of the pattern is more important than winning. Players also take pleasure in the click sound a stone makes when it's placed on the board. (Image believed pilfered from Samarkand.)
In the past twenty years, computers have become superb chessplayers; many $100 boxes play at the Master level and beyond. The special-purpose chess machine Deep Blue, the souped-up child of a grad-school project, Deep Thought, recently defeated the world's best human player, Gary Kasparov. (He was a sore loser, but Deep Blue was a very gracious and sportsthinglike winner.)

During that same period, an enormous amount of work by a lot of very smart people has gone into trying to make computers play Go well.

The latest news -- see the results of the latest Fost Cup tournament below -- is that they're making progress, but still way behind the strength of human Go masters. (Currently there's a big debate on the Newsgroup between "Go programs are making great progress! Victory's just around the corner!" vs. "Hogwash. Go programs are still dopes compared to humans.")

Why this is nobody is quite sure. A lot of the lessons chess programmers learned ought to be applicable to computer Go -- but obviously they aren't.

And Go seems like such a simple game, much simpler than chess. There's only one kind of piece, the stone; and given any intersection (x,y), either there's a black stone there, or a white stone, or nothing at all. There are no dice or elements of chance. There are no hidden things; you always see exactly what your opponent sees, which is all there is to see. A computer ought to eat this kind of situation up with a spoon.

One constraint on your brilliant computer-Go program is Time ... your box not only has to figure out The Right Move, but has to do it within time limits that also apply to its human foe. As it is, one nickname for Go is rotten axe handle, from a legend about a woodsman who paused to watch a fascinating Go game, and when it was over, his brand new axe handle had rotted away. As a spectator sport, we are talking Paint Drying here.


For many years now, a Taiwanese businessman named Mr. Ing Chang-Ki has offered

to the computer Go program which can defeat his designated Human Go Master.


Mr. Ing Chang-Ki

died 27 August 1997 at age 84.
But his Prize is still waiting to be won!

Danny Swarzman, of the San Francisco Goe Club (he keeps spelling it that way, which is fine) reports that the
97 World Computer Go Congress

was held in San Francisco on 21-23 November, and here's what happened after the programs had competed:
Rank  Program           Programmer                Nation
   1  Handtalk          Chen Zhixing              China
   2  Go4++             Michael Reiss             UK
   3  Go Intellect      Ken Chen                  USA
   4  Silver Igo        Naritatsu Yamamoto        Japan
                        (Silver Star Japan)
   5  Many Faces of Go  David Fotland             USA
   6  MODGO             Alfred & Walter Knoephle  Germany
   7  FunGo             Park Yong Goo             Korea
   8  Star of Poland    Janusz Kraszek            Poland
   9  Explorer          Martin Mueller            Austria
. 10  Super Ego         Bruce Wilcox              USA   .

Then "... Handtalk was matched against three human players. Handtalk was allowed to place 11 stones as a handicap. [A huge handicap! Nine stones is the most you get in a human-human game.] Handtalk defeated Lin Ting-Chao, a 13-year-old Taiwanese 2 Dan by three points and Jonathan Wang, an American 6 Dan by 21 points. Hwang Yi-Tsuu, an 11-year-old Taiwanese 4 Dan soundly defeated Handtalk."

Notice that Handtalk was also the winner of the Fost Cup competition in August!

Summing up: An 11-year-old boy prevented the smartest Go program in the world from winning a million bucks. Apparently your Go Monster Revenge Robot has to trash THREE human opponents in a row to establish that victory isn't a fluke.

So. There you are. Simple as that.
If you don't know how to program a computer ...

Well. I really don't know what to say. You have my sympathies.

Imagine spending $1000 or $2000 on a box and only being able to use one percent of its power and potential! Hahahahaha! You ought to be ashamed of yourself ... especially since you can learn to program in QBasic (which they threw in with your DOS/Windows machine for FREE!) with just one night's study!

But if you do know how to program, Get to Work on a Go Program Now!!!


To sample the flavor of the Web community that's trying to write stronger, faster, smarter Go programs and win the million bucks, you might want to subscribe to
the Computer Go Newsgroup

(and I guess type SUBSCRIBE in the subject and body; that ought to do it. They've recently moved from Australia to France.) If you expect to find a lot of people perpetually drooling over what they plan to do with Mr. Ing's Million Bucks, you'll be disappointed; these people are focused big-time! Most of the time I haven't the foggiest notion what they're talking about. (The Greeks, who naturally don't say "It's all Greek to me!" say instead: "It's all Chinese to me!")
But you can sort of intuit through the GeekSpeak that a frighteningly high percentage of these Computer Go correspondents are real smart! Reading their correspondence as they toss ethereal ideas back and forth just sorta makes a feller proud to belong to the same species. (At least I think I belong to the same species.)
Now you're going to need a Go board and a set of stones. You can get 'em cheap. Or expensive. Top-of-the-line Go boards are carved from a single tree grown specially for the purpose, and can cost $50,000. But you can get a more modest board and stones for about $65.

As for books, if you start getting good at Go, eventually there's a problem for English-speakers: About 95 percent of Go literature is written in Asian languages. A math professor friend of mine solved this by living with a Japanese Go master for a year; he now also teaches Japanese. But there are plenty of English Go books to get you beyond beginner.
The Japanese Go Master's Tale

The Japanese Go Master lived with his wife and maybe a kid or two in your basic Japanese apartment/flat, which is like your basic USA linen closet -- essentially one room for eating, sleeping, dancing, playing Go, etc. (Married Japanese men are strongly encouraged to leave home after dinner so they won't be underfoot during the dining-dormitory transition, so the entire husband population goes to Pachinko pinball parlors for two or three evening hours.)
One evening my pal and the Master are chatting, and the Master says, "My wife would really love a small house in the suburbs. But they are so expensive, I cannot afford it." Then he looks at his Go board, which is worth about $50,000. "Now and then I think about maybe selling this board ... naaaaah!"

"Well," my pal explained to me, "marriage is a little different in Japan." 


Here are some Computer Go buzzwords you should become familiar with:
  trees (not the wooden ones, the Platonic Objects)
*   alpha-beta
*   life and death, joseki
*   minimax
*  hashing codes
the Game of Life

Incidentally, there's a theory about computer chess that the best programmers tend to be fairly lousy players -- the idea being that after years of humiliating evidence (often provided by 13-year-old boys with thick glasses and pimples) that you're always going to be a hopeless potzer, something snaps, and you seek Revenge by constructing a Frankenstein Monster Chess Robot that will crush and annihilate all those who made you feel like such a schmuck all those years. I suspect the same is true for computer Go.

I also suspect spending years to become a very fine Go player might even be counterproductive to try for the Ing Prize. Becoming a human Go master is an  intellectual task that requires no knowledge of computers. Writing an ass-kicking computer Go program is an entirely different task, and it's quite possible the less you know about the advanced strategic aspects of Go, the better, because the idea is to make the computer do all the fancy thinking.

The 3rd International
  Fost Cup
... the annual slugfest between the world's best computer Go programs, was held in Nagoya Japan on 27-28 August 1997. (Computer Go isn't an isolated phenomenon; the tournament was part of an important world conference on artificial intelligence.)

Many of the top programs and their creators are old friends to Computer Go Newsgroup subscribers. They may not be posting every one of their trade secrets and magic tricks, but many of them are very generous with their highly interesting and obviously successful ideas. Besides the Ing Prize, there's a Great Deal of Money to be made (mostly in Asia) by writing a strong Go program that can be sold in a handheld machine or as a home computer program -- just like home chess programs and machines.

    So far income from sales in Japan has been much higher
    than the [tournament] prizes. I have one 2nd, and a
    couple of 3rd's in the world.

    But software is a great get-rich scheme. I sent a
    Japanese company my source code on a floppy, they did
    all the work of making a Japanese version and selling
    it, and they send me royalty checks.
    It's like money for nothing.

right right, money for nothing, this is a real underachiever talking, a real hammock & Budweiser sorta guy

    I use the money to buy bigger, faster, computers
    (I have 5 now), and to pay for travel, but not to
    anyplace very interesting yet.

                     -- David Fotland
                        author of "Many Faces of Go"

The new world champ, Chen ZhiXing's Handtalk, walked away from Nagoya with about U$16,500, which is not chopped liver. After beating all its international silicon foes, Handtalk then played an exhibition game against a Human Girl with a 2-kyu (very strong handicap -- lower the number, stronger the player), and squeaked out a one-point win. (The girl had little or no experience playing Go via keyboard, mouse and screen; but then the computer had little or no experience playing little girls.) The judges were impressed with the strength of Handtalk's game and certified Handtalk as 3-kyu -- also not chopped liver, and money in the bank for Handtalk's commercial future. Next year's Fost Cup will be held in Tokyo at the end of August.

 rank  program          programmer          nation
    1  Handtalk         Chen ZhiXing        China
    2  Go Intellect     Ken Chen            USA
    3  Go 4++           Michael Reiss       England
    4  Star of Poland   Janusz Kraszek      Poland
    5  Silver Igo       Naritatsu Yamamoto  Japan
    6  Gogol            Tristan Cazenave    France
    7  Biwako           Masahiro Tanaka     Japan
    8  Aya              Hiroshi Yamashita   Japan
    9  Jimmy            Shi-Jim Yan         Taiwan
   10  Fun Go           Park Yong-Goo       Korea
   11  Stone            Kuo-Yuan Kao        USA
CORRECTION! Fotland's Many Faces finished 11th!
(I just don't know how that changes the other standings.)
.  12  Many Faces of Go    David Fotland     USA   .

Well? What are you waiting for? Start Programming!
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      As I walk along the Bois de Boulogne
    With an independent air
    You can see the ladies stare --
    "He must be a millionaire!"
    You can see them sigh and wink an eye
    And to wish that they could die
    For The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carrrrrrrlo!

Merci to Didier K., an actual French guy, for correcting my spelling of Bois de Boulogne.

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Get-Rich-Quick $cheme No. 2

The Beale Ciphers
Okay okay in 1817 a guy from Virginia named Thomas J. Beale put together an expedition of about twenty fellow adventurers and went to explore the American wilderness west of the Mississippi. Somewhere in what's now New Mexico they stumbled upon a cave with enormously rich veins of silver and gold. They took it back to St. Louis in wagons, exchanged some of it for more portable precious jewels, then took the treasure to Bedford County, Virginia, and buried it in iron pots in a vault within four miles of Buford's Tavern (whose foundations still exist). They went back West the next year and did it all over again.
Beale wrote three documents in code:
    1. The preci$e location of the trea$ure.
    2. A detailed description of the treasure.
    3. A list of all the expedition members (shareholders in the treasure).

Here's the start of Document 1, just to give you a taste:

44,16,401,39,88,61,304,12,21,24,283,134,92,63,246,486,682,7 ...

Beale used to stay in a hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia, and became friends with the innkeeper. When he went off on another expedition into the wilderness in 1822, he left the three coded documents with the innkeeper. He never returned.

Toward the end of the Civil War, the innkeeper passed the coded documents to a friend, James Beverly Ward, who spent decades, and finally got lucky and inspired and figured out that the key to Document 2 was The Declaration of Independence. Using the Declaration, he decoded Document 2.

If Beale was telling the truth, the buried treasure is worth around

$22,000,000 !!! 

in today's money.

No one has ever decoded Documents 1 and 3 !!! (Not that anyone really cares about 3.)

But the Coded Text -- long lists of numbers -- has been carefully copied and circulated for years. You can get it all at
as well as a lot of other information about the Beale Ciphers and the Treasure!
Slobber. Drool. Well. Here we are again.

Those of you who don't believe this outlandish story; or who can't program a computer; or are sure they can never crack the Beale Ciphers; or who think it's too much of an effort ... well, just Go Away.
                     Hit the road, Jack,
                     and don'tcha come back
                     no more no more no more no more . . .


Now a word about Secret Codes ...

In The Gold Bug, Edgar Alan Poe wrote that any Code one mind could devise, another astute, determined mind could eventually break. Poe was a brilliant pioneer in Cryptography, and computed the tables of most frequently used alphabet letters in English writing. Such tables (different for different languages) remain invaluable in Cryptography to this day.

Poe was Absolutely Right for all the most important secret codes in the world -- things like the Japanese Purple and German Enigma codes of World War II -- well into very recent times. The earliest electronic digital computers were invented in secret to crack these codes, and were so successful that it seemed obvious that powerful Supercomputers would always stay one step ahead of any new secret code. (For more about the fascinating world of Secret Codes, read Kahn's The Codebreakers. It's a book. There's nothing to click on. Go to the bookstore or the library, okay?)

ADDENDA: A more recent book, The Codebreakers, by Simon Singh very vigorously suggests the TRUE value of the Beale Ciphers. Singh says every modern cryptologist, including the British Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, began his/her code education by trying to break the Beale Ciphers. So even if there is no fabulous treasure waiting in Virginia, when the world desperately needs to break a secret code, the legacy of the Beale Ciphers provides the human brainpower. (The Beale Ciphers are mentioned in the recent movie about Turing and Enigma, "The Imitation Game.")

Then in 1978, Things Changed. Using large Prime Numbers, S. Pohlig and M. Hellman invented a type of code called "trap-door" or "one-way encryption," the basis for Public Key Cryptography, which computer communications use today. The best theories are (almost) absolutely certain that the world's most powerful supercomputers will take centuries to break these Large-Prime-Number codes!

But ... Beale made his codes in the early 19th century, and if the methods he used for Document 2 are those he used for Document 1, these are fairly primitive, crude codes. The reason they haven't been broken is that you need to figure out what book or document Beale used as the Key -- the way he used the Declaration of Independence for Document 2.

In modern crypto jargon, such codes are called a "one-time pad." Without knowing the key (book, usually) used to code the message, it's just about impossible to break the code. 

It probably has to be:
  • a standardized document -- that is, something which has almost exactly the same wording and spelling no matter what the edition
  • a widely-circulated, widely owned document in the early 19th century, like the King James Bible.
Oh. I forgot. You'll need to buy a shovel and rent a big truck.

By the way ...

Just what, exactly, will you do with your $1,000,000 Ing Prize,
or your $22,000,000 Beale Treasure?

The Three Stages of
Get-Rich-Quick Fantasy are:
  • Anticipation, Slobbering & Drooling
  • The Magic Touch-the-Money Moment
  • The Spending Spree
Please e-mail me your plans for these Huge Sums of Filthy Lucre. Please don't tell me you're going to invest it all in safe low-yield money-market or mutual funds for your old age. I don't want to hear that. I'll list your more imaginative fantasies, and your name (or not, your call) here.
    David Fotland, who actually has MADE
    money writing Go programs, describes
    his spending spree above.

you people thought this was a joke, right? i will try to get a .wav of Fotland laughing.

Mine involve unimaginably fast English motorcycles (there's a New Triumph!!! I've seen and touched it!), lobsters, and n beautiful, intelligent, friendly, fun-loving young women (where n > 1 ) who like to wear stuff from Frederick's of Hollywood.

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