This was a pretty fun weekend. On friday was George's annual halloween party, which had some late night antics and a lot of great costumes. Can you guess which Russian president and Time Magazine "man of the decade" I went as? Party pictures, including illustrations of how to make your own "party" costume (warning: costume is fairly "permanent") are available here: Halloween '05.
On saturday I went to a Heinz School party way out in Bellevue, thanks to a tip from Jake D. No pictures from this one, and that's too bad because these folks take Halloween pretty seriously: Accoutrements included smoke machine, two blood fountains, dismembered eyeball candy, hand-shaped ice in the punch, and damn that was a sweet smoke machine. The whole block looked like it was on fire.
I mysteriously injured my foot last week right before Brian and Sarah's wedding, which has been driving me nuts all week because I haven't been able to run. But it seems better now, and I guess a week off was good for me, because I beat my best times on the two Shadyside routes that I run by quite a margin, on consecutive days. Based on my pace I could do a 5K in just about 20 minutes now, at least on a mostly flat course.
Today Brendan and I took advantage of the last gasp of fall (and his last day in Pittsburgh for a month or so) to go on a combo photography expedition and climbing trip. This worked out really great. I will post pictures from our industrial exploration soon. (Jeesh, I have quite a backlog now....)
Reflections on the name of CMU's new electronic payment system, ''PlaidCa$h''
(27 Oct 2005 at 13:22)
Carnegie Mellon has just rolled out a new electronic system for paying for printing and copying on campus. This is good, since it will probably reduce the common practice of pointless, abandoned print jobs, and because our quota (which I need none of) will let me also use the nice color poster printers in a end-of-semester billboarding binge without any freeloading-socialist guilt. [Stay tuned for the results!]
Thing is, they named this system, or some aspect of it, "PlaidCa$h." What the hell is wrong with them? I'm talking particularly about the dollar sign used in place of a regular old 's'. This is even worse than the pejorative '$' used when spelling "Micro$oft" or "Mother Tere$a"—a practice that is obnoxious enough on its own—because in this case it conveys no extra meaning. Do we call it an exclamat!on point? An ampers&? Em@il? S/ash? Of course not! Why? Because these words already say what they are, and there is no need to evoke the "cash" image with a dollar sign when the name of the damn thing already says "cash" in it!!
Brian and Sarah got married!
(23 Oct 2005 at 00:02)
Phew! Sarah and Brian got married. I have to say, some people have a lot of stamina, and those people are not me. I am rather exhausted after helping out with this wedding, and there are lots of people who did at least ten times as much work. Anyway, it was totally worth it. Sarah and Brian are two of my favorite friends, and the wedding was unanimously declared to be wonderful.
Aside from offering my minivan for mum and chuppa hauling, and being a groomsman (and all that entails..) my duties were twofold. First, prepare a bachelor's party. For this, the usual beer and scotch and Halo sufficed, plus an added twist: in order to preserve and fortify Brian's manliness (which superstition dicates is stripped of him upon getting married, being the reason for a boys-only evening), I bought a bunch of "man" costumes like beards and nunchucks and fake cigars and elvis sunglasses, then we posed him a variety of humiliating postures, and photographed him. The best of these photographs were shown at the wedding reception thanks to a bit of cooperation from the bride. (And I will post them soon..)
The second duty was the "first toast," which I was deeply honored to give. [For you wedding neophytes, as I was only yesterday, this is the toast that accompanies the grand entrance of the bride and groom into the reception after the ceremony.] I don't deny shedding a (happy) tear or two when preparing it (uh, in the car right before the wedding) and during the delivery! Although I was really nervous in preparation, I got a lot of people complimenting me on it afterwards (and I made Sarah cry, but that is easy) so I think it went well. I figure I should post it, since I went to the trouble of typing it up (though I ad-libbed the actual one, for max flow):
Hello everyone. My name is Tom 7 and I've been honored with the duty of giving the "first toast." I don't know what that means, but I know that at the end I just need to say, "to Brian and Sarah," and then you guys clink your glasses and they kiss and you drink or clap and I raise my hands like this or whatever. But--wait--not yet. First, I want to tell you a Brian and Sarah story, and it's the story of how they started dating.
The story starts one summer a few years ago when Brian and Sarah and I and several other people who are here tonight were at a party, playing a game sort of like "truth or dare"--Sarah's invention, actually, where the truths or dares were written on little community chest cards like this (card). It came Sarah's turn and she was forced by the truth card to admit a crush on "someone in this room," and that turned out to be, of course, Brian. I'm really glad that this card came up, because compared to some of the dares in there, this was pretty much the best luck Brian and Sarah could have had.
Well, look, I'm just trying to book-end this story, so I don't want to go on about that party, but it's important to mention that at this point we came up with the idea of going on a road trip. The idea we invented was the "random road trip," where we would just hop in the car and drive with no particular destination in mind, with no potential for "are we there yet?" At the time I guess I supposed this was just one of those crazy party promises that would be forgotten by the next morning.
But in fact, after a long long night and a memorable walk--or--roll home, and then just a few hours of sleep, I got a call from Brian the next morning, proposing just such a random road trip. And despite how little sleep we all had, there was a certain vigorous excitement to his voice, and my friends know that I can never resist Brian's plans, and so we went: Brian and Sarah and Tom on a random road trip, which ultimately took us to Columbus Ohio.
Now what I didn't know at the time, and what is the reason that I am even telling this story at their wedding, is that in those few hours, I'm talkin' maybe five hours, between rolling home and leaving on the road trip, Brian and Sarah had decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend.
This random road trip that we went on was easily one of the most fun and most memorable weekends of my life. We played with glow-sticks, ate grits at a waffle house in the middle of the night, got kicked out of a Budweiser factory where we had discovered the most amazing device, which was a beer spigot in the sky like six feet in diameter, climbed on broken machinery at the fairgrounds, and a hundred other tiny things we'll never forget.
This whole random road trip they never let on that they were a new couple! Even when we stayed in this absolute horror show of a hotel room (according to one patron, "this place can get kinda 'off the hook' at night"), a double room, Brian was gentleman enough that he and I shared one bed, and Sarah the other!
In retrospect, it is obvious why this trip was so fun: I was witnessing a new couple's first day together, and that sense of excited wonderment, where everything, even Columbus Ohio, is interesting and beautiful. They've got a name for this: love! And I'm happy to say that it lasted, and that there's still a palpable sense of this joy whenever I spend time with them. Guys, this one was meant to be.
So, thank you for sharing the random road trip, and your first day, with me. (Don't worry, I won't ask to come on your honeymoon, too.)
So now that I've gotten choked up a bit, just enough to betray my manhood but not enough to, you know, get anything wet, I can say the stuff we talked about before that makes this a toast, and you know what to do:
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. and Mrs. Brian and Sarah. To love!
By popular request, I have added bombs to Escape. These are pretty cool, but you might as well play the tutorial in order to see how they work. Since I also added a bunch of new features (like bookmarks) and did some graphical cleanup, I'm calling this a "beta 3". There's been a recent slowdown in Escape activity since everyone is going back to school (etc.), so I'm hoping that this will help pick things up.
Also, since the old feedback thread has gotten way too long, I've started this post as the new one.
and everything under the sun is in tune but the sun is eclipsed by the moon
(10 Oct 2005 at 09:59)
I'm a big fan of tool-assisted superplay videos (and speedruns in general). This one is pure genius: using the exact same sequence of inputs, simultaneously beat Mega Man X1 and X2. (Imagine someone using a Y-splitter to plug one controller into two Super Nintendos and playing both games at the same time with that one controller, except this is done by using emulators and frame-by-frame advance, etc.) The video, although a bit long, displays a few nice moments of Dark-Side-of-the-Moon-vs.-Wizard-of-Oz synchronicity. I can't wait for the video that beats all 6 of the original Mega Man games simultaneously. ;)
I have been playing a lot of Counter-Strike recently, I guess just because it's one of the few multiplayer FPS games that it's easy to find opponents in. Someone has made a "deathmatch" mod for it where instead of all that boring waiting and paying for weapons and planting bombs and stuff, you just spawn instantly with infinite money every time you die. This is hilariously great. It has helped me finally appreciate why people love the AWP so much, but at the same time, I think it has basically burned me out on the game. I mean, how many terrorists or counter-terrorists can you kill before concluding—like the great self-aware WOPR computer in the prescient Matthew Broderick film "WarGames" did—"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play?"
After getting bored tonight I tried to play a pacifist version of counter-strike deathmatch. Instead of shooting those terrorists, I tried to convince all players that we had had enough fighting, and to get them to cooperate towards a common goal. I figured, perhaps it is not "terrorist" versus "counter-terrorist" but "freedom fighter wearing desert fatigues" versus "freedom fighter wearing SWAT body armor," in which case, isn't what we really want in the end just freedom? And since we are trapped forever within the strangely cyclic streets of de_dust2, perhaps an acceptable substitute for true freedom would be to demonstrate mastery of our environment, even if through the cruelly destructive Edward-Scissorhands appendages of our AK-47s and deagles? Perhaps by, you know, painstakingly shooting every barrel in the entire level until it winds up at the Counter-terrorist—ahem—"freedom fighter" spawn point?
The picture above shows my small success: I was able to free every barrel in the level (except for one which was thoroughly stuck inside a car) and get them all to the center by shooting and shooting them. Those other freedom fighters, perhaps misunderstanding my intentions, did kill me hundreds upon hundreds of times in the process. Some joined in—that is, I definitely saw some guys shooting at barrels and tires, but they might just have been trying to shoot me and missing. No matter. de_barrelworld: pwned! Why didn't the department of homeland security think of that?
Here are a few pictures from downtown Pittsburgh, although you'd be hard pressed to tell that it's Downtown, since only about nine square feet are pictured in total. (Actually, the entire "Still Life with Twig" photo comprises a real life area of only about 10.8x16.3 mm at the focal plane!)