Eric Pettersen's Web Page

All right, stand back; no pushing -- I know the demand for information about me is tremendous, but no one has to get hurt.

Historical Perspectives about Eric Pettersen

One of about 5 "native-born" San Franciscans currently living in San Francisco, I was born at Mt. Zion hospital on October 14, 1960. I am informed that at that time I was cute.

Current Issues regarding Eric Pettersen

Eric Pettersen's Home Issues

I live in the Inner Sunset with my beautiful wife Elaine. Our dear chinchilla baby Max (a.k.a. Pooples Fatty Puff the Magnificent, a.k.a. Senator Stuffington Fluffypants) has unfortunately passed on. :-(

You can see my chariot just after its bad-ass covert-op paint job in this picture. Don't mess with those bad boys.

Eric Pettersen's Work Issues

I work at the UCSF Computer Graphics Lab as a programmer and system administrator. The principal programming project we're working on right now is the development of a molecular visualization package named Chimera.

Eric Pettersen's Dorking Around Issues

My principal diversions, listed in approximately the order of the amount of time recently wasted on them, are:

Advanced Squad Leader (ASL)
An intricate board-game simulation of WWII tactical ground warfare. The rulebook is 100+ pages (although "only" 40 or so are necessary to get started). Typical scenarios last 3-5 hours, though campaign games can last months (my last CG lasted nine months). To those that enjoy it, it's a blast. Others may find it as wonderful as form 1040A. If you think you may be one of the crazy ones, check out the ASL Crossroads for more info.
A multi-player collectible card game based on White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing game (where characters are current-day vampires). Not likely to make the Focus on Family's top 10 game list. The strategy is quite intricate though, and the game is not dominated by high-priced rare cards (unlike Jyhad's vastly more popular cousin, Magic). If you have difficulty finding opponents, you can even play online.
I play socially about once a week. It's more of a snack-fest than serious bridge competition.
Go programming
The oriental game of Go is the "Everest" of games for the purposes of getting a computer to play well. Unlike chess, which can be beaten with a "fast and dumb" approach that relies on the computer's vast speed to look at an astronomical number of positions no matter how absurd those positions may be, Go is not so easily defeated. Whereas in a typical chess game, the "branching factor" (number of move choices available each turn) is about 35, in Go it's 200. This factor exponentiates as the lookahead goes deeper down the game tree.

The other aspect of Go that makes it significantly harder than chess is that Go positions are not amenable to simple analysis. Whereas in chess the count of pieces gives a strong indication of who is ahead, pieces are rarely removed in Go. Instead, "dead" groups are left in place since expending the moves to complete the capture would be a waste of time (unless the opponent first makes some attempt to save the group). Analysis of which groups are alive and dead is subtle and difficult and can't be done quickly as would be necessary for the "fast/dumb" approach of chess programming.

What's life without a challenge, though? So, I've written a Go program in C++ named gottaGo. It plays on the Computer Go Ladder against other people's programs. I administer the ladder. I'm currently working on upgrading gottaGo's code to use the STL which will make it easier to compile with modern C++ compilers.

Future Work for Eric Pettersen

Death, I suppose. Unless anyone has another suggestion.