Well, not that much to say about October. This is the busiest time of the year at work, and this year for some reason particularly so, and I don't get much time to do anything but that.
Two running-related things. The Shadyside (that's my neighborhood in Pittsburgh) 5k was earlier this month, and I finished with a time of 20m21s, which is pretty good for a 40 year-old (6m33s/mile). This continues the recent theme of coming close to PRs I set as a 30 year-old, with some dubious excuse (in this case, I "felt sick that morning") to explain the gap, and to motivate myself to keep trying to match/beat those old times and "just lose 15 pounds" etc.. We also traveled to Kentucky, my first time there, for the Ragnar "Bourbon Chase", which event is a relay race from Louisville to Lexington, which route passes through the sites of various bourbon whiskey distilleries. William calls it the "Kentucky Bourby," which IMO should be canonical. Ragnars sound like a lot when you say it's a 200 mile relay, but that's split over 12 people, and honestly the running is not really the hard part (it's all the sleep deprivation and van logistics). Two of my legs were kind of monotonous but one was very scenic, almost "Kentucky" pastiche, with the rolling hills and perfect fences and horses and grasses. It was also cool to visit these distilleries (and e.g. Four Roses was moderately open for us at 3am), but this kind of running and sleep deprivation doesn't really set the best mood for drinking whiskey and touring the grounds (e.g. in the dark), so maybe it is not the best way to visit Kentucky's whiskey scene. Still, was a good trip.
Games-wise, I finished RAGE 2 (IMO a fine game as far as dumb shooters go, I think underrated even) and a little bullet hell roguelike called "Monolith," which I liked. This weekend I unwisely installed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (distinct from "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" and "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered"; cf. related joke) and have been saving America over and over. It's exactly what you'd expect.
I've found some time to spend on my ongoing engineering project, and made some impossible-to-undo steps (e.g. cuts into irreplaceable pieces), which is an unarguable sign of progress. This weekend I finally did one of those integration steps where I first tested a bunch of things together, and unnervingly it worked on the first try. I still have one mechanical part that I think has a pretty good chance of not working due to my naivety, in which case I will have to get creative, which is part of the fun!
Happy 40th birthday to me! I'm currently in Connecticut visiting with the whole family, which is only somewhat coincidentally on my 40th birthday weekend. The main thing is the pizza! Two quick updates from this month, strawberry-related:
One of my all-time favorite games, Celeste, just got a new free 9th chapter (which is sized more like three chapters). This was a mixed blessing since over a year ago I finished all its hardest levels (all achievements) and then managed to pry myself from it. So I felt compelled to get the two new achievements to get back to 100%, but it was a somewhat hypnotizing and RSI-inducing grind. (Especially since I had gotten pretty rusty. I even forgot that you can hold onto walls, which made the first few levels much harder...) The worst part was that the final level was rumored to be kinda ridiculous, and the "WOW" achievement even moreso, so I was feeling worried about that the whole week it took to get through the prior 99. All told it was pretty worthwhile; the level design is really admirable as usual, and it stays true to the signature difficulty curve. I recommend it.
Second is a font sighting sent by a friendly Internet stranger. This one is from a fairly popular (18M views this month) music video called Fresa, which features Columbian Reggaeton artist Lalo Ebratt. A sighting in such a video would be interesting, but the wildest thing is where it is:
Yes, that is Action Jackson used on his highly permanent neck tattoo that reads "THUGGER" (presumably short for "Tree Hugger"). It seems to be a fairly new tattoo, but you can find many more images of it to verify. I hope it ages well!
Why do posts have to have a 'title'?
(31 Aug at 23:46)
Not too much to add this month. A new direct flight to Montreal this summer popped up, so we took a trip there last weekend. I had never been, and it is a fun city, with good food, beer, music, geodesic domes, and other things. I always try to participate in a local running race if I can, and there was a small 10k fundraiser near the Olympic stadium. I managed a 43m39s (about 7 min/mile), which is not bad for an old guy, finishing in 11th place. It's not like I was just out for a jog, but I certainly didn't put maximum effort here, because I also wanted to enjoy the rest of my vacation day and anyway I retired from the 10k distance in post 990. I used to think that I was never going to be able to beat the times that I recorded in my late 20s when I felt young. But the decade+ of regularly running hard must have some long-term effects, because I'm pretty sure I could have run 6m30s miles here without dying, and perhaps with a death effort (not to mention losing 10 pounds or so) I could have set a personal record. This also happened with a 5k I did a couple years ago. Good to not feel washed up, but of course this is just talk unless I prove it!
Speaking of old, I'll probably turn 40 before the next post (September 27)!
I have been getting deep into this project described in the previous post, but which remains confidential, as they do. But it finally gave me a reason to get an oscilloscope! I have a lot of traveling to do in September so I'm unlikely to finish it (and video, etc.), but the project is still very much in the fun state, so maybe that's good news for me.
Almost out of time to even finish this post before the month expires. But brief recommendations: I've been playing and liking Dicey Dungeons. It is good and has a very wholesome and pleasant style. Sometimes you need that. I also really like the new album called Anak Ko by Jay Som. Great production, songwriting, vocals, everything.
I felt pretty down on this video as I was finishing it, I think mostly in the same way that one does about their dissertation, just because of the slog. I started it just thinking, I'll make a quick fun video about all those chess topics, but then once I had set out to fill in the entire tournament table, this sort of dictated the flow of the video even if I wanted to just get it over with. So it was way longer than I was planning, at 42 minutes, and my stress about this just led to more tedium as I would micro-optimize in editing to shorten it. RIP some mediocre jokes. But it turns out there are plenty of people on the internet who enjoy long-form nerdy content like this, and it was well-received, which is encouraging. (But now I am perplexed that it seems to be more popular than NaN Gates and Flip-FLOPS, which IMO is far more intetersting/original. I guess the real lesson is just make what you feel like making, and post it!) The 50+ hours programming, drawing, recording and editing did have the desired effect of getting chess out of my system for now, at least.
Since last post I played Gato Roboto which is a straightforward and easy but still very charming "Metroidvania." Now I'm working my way through Deux Ex: Mankind Divided, which (aside from the crashing) is a a very solid sequel to Human Revolution. Although none of these games is likely to capture the magic of the original (one of my all-time faves), they do definitely have the property that you can play them in ways that the developer didn't explicitly set out for you, and as you know I get a big kick out of that.
Aside from the video games, I've picked back up a 10 year-old project that I never finished because it was a little bit outside my skillset. But having gotten significantly better at electronics and CNC, it is seeming pretty doable now. Stay tuned!
I still always confuse June and July
(30 Jun at 23:17)
Ugh, well, I still didn't finish the video I mentioned last post (it is just a video version of some of my chess papers from this last SIGBOVIK; don't get too excited), but I made a lot of progress on it this weekend. This one has a lot of custom software, some of which is hours of work for like 10 seconds on-screen. This approach is "fun" but not efficient. At least I have a good approach to the video so it's just a matter of turning the crank now.
I finished The Messenger. My verdict is that it is good. Some aspects of it are fantastic (8-bit graphics and writing) and most are very good, but the game was not very hard and the "metroidvania" aspects of it were mostly about retreading ground between distant teleports. I managed to get all the achievements, which I don't usually do, but there was just like one hard one left.
Speaking of hard ones, next up is/was Dead Cells, whose verdict is great. This is a grindy (lots of unlockables/upgrades) roguelike platformer with really excellent controls and "flow", almost feeling like a twitchy fighting game at times. It's no "Spelunky" or even "Crypt of the Necrodancer"; what set those apart for me is how the design of the random level generation really tended to create these interesting situations and puzzles. But this game has an impressive amount of content (the graphics and the sheer variety of weapons/powerups both stand out to me) and is just really fun to play, except when you die (which is always). Just now I finally beat the game on "Hard" (second boss cell) so it may be time to retire. I bought like 9 more games on the Steam summer sale, after all!