Hello! This month I've been taking a break project-wise: Not letting myself start anything big, or feel bad about not finishing projects that have been lingering for some time. This is nice, and I did a little bit of tinkering, but mostly video games, summer travel, and fixing things around the house. (For example I replaced those miswired basement outlets described in in my last video with proper GFCIs, and hooked the correct color wires to the correct terminals. Seriously, how does anybody screw this up??)
In the previous post I mentioned that I'd run the Pittsburgh Marathon, my first real race in some time. No costume. I have been running pretty much daily since early 2020, and did about two weeks of 10k/day in the run up to this, which is a pretty decent load. I only slept a couple hours the night before (preoccupied with urgent thoughts like "what if I don't get enough sleep for the race??"), but somehow I felt quite good for it. The temperature was excellent (50°s). I didn't have any particular plan except to give it a solid go. About 10 miles in, I saw that I was actually just ahead of the 3h30m pace group, which was better than I had expected. So I decided to stay ahead of that, and maybe with a kick at the end, even challenge my all time best (which I set in my first marathon actually, at the age of 28). It had been drizzling a little but right around then it started to rain really hard, which did slow me down. For example because it melted the paper bib—which you need to bring with you for timing purposes (has some RFID in it) and to show that you are Authorized To Run (nobody cares about this) and so that if they photograph you, they know it's you and can send you Last Chance To Get Your 2022 Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon Official Race Photos from PhotoZone™ every week for the rest of your life—so I was trying to figure out how to re-safety-pin that thing while keeping the pace. And worse, stuff like your shoes get soaked with water and then you have heavy, squishy shoes. This race goes right by my house, like I can see my house at mile 18 or so. It's not even so much that it tempts me to stop because I'm right there (the shower is appealing but you can just think about how painful it will actually be with the chafing), but the inescapable thought that now I need to run all the way back downtown, and THEN find my way back to where I already am. Probably I have already complained about this in a previous post; it happens every time. Anyway, I kept ahead of the pace group, and thought maybe I could even beat my PR, but I couldn't remember what it was? 3h26m? Something around there. I finished in 3h25m43s; 251st place (10th %ile). This is a pace of 7m49s/mile, which ain't bad for a 42 year old. Since I had ditched my shirt (soaked, useless) and figured they wouldn't let me on the bus without it, I ended up walking home (5.5 miles). It was colder when walking. But I got a great Civic Arena shirt from a guy on the way in the Strip for a sweaty $10. (When I got home I found that my PR is actually 3h23m04s, which knowledge probably would have caused me to run faster!) Since I came so close, it's clear that for the next one my goal needs to be to actually set a new PR. It'll be somewhat dependent on conditions (like today it was 90° F and I gave myself a headache struggling to run 8.5 miles at 9m16s/mile pace!) but I can do it. We're probably going to do Detroit, which also helps on my side quest to run across many borders: This one, improbably, crosses (south!) into Canada through the mile-long underwater Detroit–Windsor tunnel.
This month was SIGBOVIK 2022, and I did a project called Harder Drive. There is a paper but as usual the premium experience can be had in the video version:
Also as usual with these ambitious ones I was quite sick of the project at the end. Video editing is just such a grind. So I was relieved that many people liked the video. The algorithm seemed pleased too, and I got well past the 100,000 subscriber mark. This qualifies me for a free commemorative plaque. It is not guaranteed to grow in value, or even retain its value.
I added a few items after the initial post. There's now a torrent file with all my ping data and a viewer program for windows, which I'll keep up for a bit longer (it's just too big to host permanently; somehow disk space is always so limited on these cloud linux servers??). I also put up MP3s of the title card themes ("ringtones") over on the Tom 7 Entertainment System land of Musical P3s. Completionists may also be able to see a hurried live-recorded version of the talk on the SIGBOVIK Twitch account, which reportedly has a hilariously malfunctioning auto-camera (perhaps due to my face-detection-thwarting over-the-top tyvek body suit and mask). Although I can't seem to find the full video now so maybe it expired; I dunno, I don't understand how Twitch works. Anyway, you're not missing that much; the official video is much better. There were only two live talks this year (from two old guys, one being me) but there was an astonishing amount of content. The proceedings are 350 pages (I'm pretty sure this is the longest ever) apparently without even any funny business like dozens of pages of portmantout, and there were are a lot of well-done videos from around the world. I haven't dug into the papers much yet (I am still waiting for the printed version) but it was heartening to see so much participation. In Feburary it sorta looked like it wasn't even going to happen!
Speaking of CDC, I'm going to bed right now (okay, maybe a touch of Elden Ring first) to wake up early tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Marathon, which is back! I don't have a costume; I'm just going to try to run it like a regular 42-year-old. I have been running basically every day, but it's pretty unpredictable recently whether I'll feel great or medium or bad when I go out to run (probably a combination of overtraining and allergies or allergy medication). So I'm not sure if it's going to be good conditions to try to run it hard. But I haven't run a real race in a few years, so I'm looking forward to this as an opportunity.
Hello! I'm gearing up for SIGBOVIK 2022, but that means I don't have any project stuff to share for this month's post. I'll definitely have a paper (14 pages and dozens of overfull hboxes already) for tomorrow's deadline. I'm also planning to make a video for the conference, which is one week later this year: April 8. As usual with a deadline extension it's both a blessing (more time means I can get more done, or alternatively, play video games) but a curse (can't move on to the next thing yet)!
In the middle of the month I accidentally clicked the "Join Challenge" button in Strava for the "March Endurance Challenge," which is to run 300 kilometers in March. 300k is a lot (10k = 6.2 miles a day), although I have certainly done that in the past, but the problem here is that I started behind, and then got a bad case of poison ivy on my foot that set me further back. I was still kind of trying to put in extra miles here and there to get it done, though, and this week it was like, "Well, I COULD finish if I just ran 45 miles in the next 4 days..." There are plenty of good excuses, but recently I have been telling myself that the best excuse is to just actually get it done, so I did that. To make it a little harder on myself (??) I did long runs of laps (10 one-mile laps the first day, 10 one-kilometer laps the second, 10 three-quarter-mile laps today), which are a challenge for being so tedious. But in another way it's more meditative, so I could "work on" my paper or whatever at the same time. I signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon next month but I'm not sure if I'm going to try to run it for real, or just recreationally, or come up with some costume.
I finished Cyberpunk 2077, which I thought was a good game. I've already talked about this one in previous posts, but I recommend it if you like open-world quest-driven games like this (e.g. GTA). As I was finishing there was enormous hype around Elden Ring everywhere, but also from some game designers and enjoyers who I respect a lot, and so I decided to start that. This may have been a mistake since it's kind of similar and at least as involved as Cyberpunk was (pretty sure I will not try to 100% this though), and it is also distracting me from SIGBOVIK. I wasn't very convinced at first (the artwork struck me as very "drab medieval fantasy" and I have no patience for the "story") but I am definitely getting into it, mostly for the sake of the exploration, similar to how it felt playing Breath of the Wild.
That's enough to satisfy my obligation to post each month. See you soon!
The title of the post is 'February 2022'
(28 Feb at 23:05)
Here we are again! Aside from the usual, my "SIGBOVIK" project is well underway and several parts are already done, so all I really need to do is figure out how many more additions I'm going to try to squeeze in before the deadline. (If there is one! It currently seems like the global malaise / anxiety is afflicting the SIGBOVIK organizing committee (If there is one!) and it's not clear that it will be in full force this year. Hopefully a hero will emerge. In any case I will at least make a video of my silly project for my silly YouTube channel.) I still have two much longer-lived projects close to the finish line, but it's harder to work up the energy when the lines ain't dyin'. Who knows what that's about. Anyway, here's a mysterious image from the new project, which contains almost no information and certainly no spoilers:
Mysterious image from project 'Pingu'
As predicted we finished up this homemade stool made of trash:
Ampersand stool on dry workbench
In addition to being made of trash, I only used leftover other crap, like instead of using the official fiducial tape for the Shaper Origin (you gonna charge me $17 for a roll of tape??) I used my homemade reverse-engineered pirate markers printed on the laser printer (this is partly responsible for the gouges on the project, no doubt), old sandpaper that's all worn down and loaded with sawdust even though I have stacks of brand new sandpaper, old glue that had dried out but still had one moist part when you peeled off the crinklies and gum, old polyurethane that had a bunch of dirt and rust in it, old wood stain that came with the house and which we applied with old socks that had holes in them, and so on. I think it adds to the fun to use leftovers, and I still think it came out pretty nice. You can compare to the cyber version in post 1201.
Speaking of Cyber I'm still playing Cyberpunk 2077, now at the point where I'm trying to 100% it I guess, which is not challenging except for the grind, which is mostly about moving from place to place since my personal Cyberpunk is just absurdly powerful now. Like even when the bad guys tricked me and took all my clothes and weapons (it was really obvious that they were going to trick me—I'm no Cybernoob—but like I said I want to do all the missions) and put me in the ice bath to steal my cyber-organs, I could still kill everybody in one hit just by breathing on them. To make things more "challenging", a recent update (which is otherwise very nice) made it impossible for me to "fast travel," because I started playing FPS games before the world had standardized on WASD control schemes, so I got used to using the mouse LMB and RMB for "forward" and "back," which is actually a very good control scheme if you ask me (for example easier to temporarily play one-handed if you need to touch your beard, which I do) even though it strikes many people as weird. It also strikes many games as weird, since although they usually let you configure them this way, they also sometimes hard-code on-screen stuff like menus to treat the left mouse button specially as "click this element" (which does of course kinda make sense, although it would be easy enough to just use the "fire" button for this, right?). So a common frustration for me (and sometimes a game-breaking one, alas) is having to use menus or maps where clicking also makes your character move forward or pan upward or something. I imagine it must be what it's like for people who committed themselves to the Dvorak keyboard in 1997. That was definitely happening in C2077 until this latest update but now I can't even click on stuff on the map at all, for example to initiate fast travel. I would probably have figured out a way to work around this or whatever, but since I seem to be close to the end anyway, I'm now just driving myself all the kilometers between missions. Driving around in this game is quite good, at least, owing to the very well-done architecture and scenery. Anyway, I can't help myself but finish, but I'm also itching to be done with this thing since there are a bunch of enticing games enqueued, like the Outer Wilds DLC and Undertale XVII or whatever.
Happy 2022! December seems to often be a time of hibernation for me, but January has me feeling energetic, despite the deep cold. Possibly it's because I start getting in the mood to "do something quick" for SIGBOVIK instead of fiddling endlessly on one of my many multi-year projects. I do now have a feasibly-scoped thing underway for this year's Bovik, and even some leftover energy for long runs, side projects, and chores (like for example our refrigerator just died after its own long run!).
A few years ago, my Ph.D. advisor Bob Harper became old enough that we threw him a Festschrift (this is fun; please do one for me when I am 2^6 if you deem me worthy), and finally the slow slow wheels of academic publishing resulted in the articles being "printed" (basically this means someone put the PDFs on a website). I wrote a bit for the "On being a PhD student of Robert Harper" reminiscences. My bigger contribution was assembling them all into an unauthorized printed book (as academic publishing no longer "prints" "publications"), including the unbelievably complicated (despite its apparent simplicity) task of concatenating the PDFs with the correct margins and page sizes for print. But also making some nice cover art, which looks like this:
Robert Harper Festschrift Collection
Even though I have printed books before (e.g. thesetwo) I always get a kick out making something on the computer and then having it exist in the real world. This was my first time doing hardcover prints. They come out great, just like "real" books!
Actually two of my other in-progress projects involve computer designs that become real objects. One of those is part of the aforementioned secret "something quick" SIGBOVIK project, but the other is a simple piece of household furniture. Here's an early render of that thing, known as the "Ampersand" stool, on the dry salt bed as traditional:
Ampersand stool on dry salt bed
This one is made from a single tabletop (some engineered wood I don't know the name of; it's like finger- and end-jointed boards of some soft wood which I just spent way too long trying to figure out the species of; maybe beech?) that I found in the sidewalk trash and rolled home for future such projects, cut with the Shaper Origin CNC. It still needs some staining and finishing, but I don't mind sharing before it's complete because (a) the real version will have all sorts of imperfections and won't be on the dry salt bed (b) the point of this project is not to "finish" and "post" but to have a stool that we can step on to reach the high shelves.
Just a few days ago a prominent bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed dramatically. From the crumbled pictures it's hard to get a sense of how high up it was. It was pretty and one of my favorites, and I ran across it several times a week in 2020 as part of a regular route. I never was able to claim the Strava crowns for those segments (especially the short one—I guess my all-out sprint is not that competitive). But it seems my records are now locked in for a long time (2nd place; 7th place) unless the construction crews want to really show off. Ironically I never knew the name of this bridge until it fell; R.I.P Fern Hollow Bridge! 😢