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Entries from October 2023
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October, the 8th month (31 Oct 2023 at 22:35)
Wow, this month sure went by fast. I'm sure I say that every October, as this is the busiest time of year at work, and stuff like football and Maybe The Last Nice Day This Year keep me busy.

I've been plugging away at this math/programming project, currently porting some numerical code that I don't fully understand and finding bugs in it and improving its performance. It's relaxing, at least, but there's nothing good to share here yet and I'm not sure it'll ever make an interesting story. I did make some version-2 circuit boards for a project I've been working on in parallel, too, but the next step in that one is going to be annoying ("Why won't it boot?") so I've been putting it off.

They brought the small neighborhood race called "Run Shadyside" back this year. This is a 5k course that I can easily walk to the start of, and Shadyside is about as flat as it gets in Pittsburgh, so it's a nice race to try to PR in. I've been keeping in pretty good shape (despite the setback due to illness mentioned previously), but that morning I was having some burning lungs so I didn't push myself too hard. (Could have been mold? Bad air quality? Slightly sick?) I finished in 20m19s, which is probably my third best official 5K time, although a bit disappointing since I ran several unofficial treadmill 5Ks under 19 minutes this summer. I finished 3rd in my age group. The results feature a new capitalization of my name, the elusive Stegosaurus CasE: "Tom Murphy ViI"

Craving a game that would make proper use of the GeForce 4090, I installed Call Of Duty: Cold War. Actually this game is a couple years old, and graphically it's not anything particularly special. I am liking the single-player campaign more than usual for these kinds of games, and avoiding getting sucked into multiplayer. I gave the "zombies" mode a shot and I think I finally understand it, like playing a roguelike on a single seed. I think I'm at the point where I need to set myself some kind of challenge and complete it and retire to more artful things, though.
(4 comments — almost 7 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from September 2023
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Happy birthday to me! (44) (30 Sep 2023 at 18:37)
Hello and howdy. I usually describe myself as turning the "ripe old age of so-and-so" on my birthday posts, but I may need a new adjective as I'm solidly in my mid-40s, now (44). Perhaps "fermented." The birthday's come and gone without incident, although there were minor contemporaneous incidents:

Still in the math hole. It might be an infinite hole. Trying to get out. But I have improved my console fonts and ANSI color libraries and GPU programming skills, at least. I was very pleased that a recent release of NVIDIA drivers came with a brand new updated OpenCL, which I previously assumed had been abandoned like so many computer things that I become fond of. Kudos to whoever at NVIDIA pushed on this. I am making myself laugh privately to myself (well, no longer private now) by imagining someone who spells it out like an acronym, N-V-I D-I-A.

Also, like usual, I ran the Pittsburgh Great Race, a mostly-downhill 10k. No encumbrances this time. I've been in good shape this summer, but I got sick last month and it set me back a bit, so this wasn't a star performance. Still 43m22s is not too bad and I didn't push myself all that hard. Fewer minutes than years old.

The new GPU is mostly for math, but I wanted to try it out for its Intended Purpose, (N)Video Games. So I played through Far Cry 6, which was okay. I liked it better than 5, which among other things had a bunch of technical problems (this one was much smoother and more stable), but I probably should have read my review of that game before downloading, as I say something like "I should probably stop playing this series." Still slowly savoring Tears of The Kingdom, which remains great. I also started Return To Monkey Island. I loved the first two in this series, but couldn't get into the later sequels; of course I'm interested in giving this one a shot since it's made by the original designers (and I did like Thimbleweed Park). Too early to render a verdict, but I did like how they deftly handled the canonicity of the end of 2.

Then there's this: I think this is Taylor Swift wearing a homemade t-shirt of her "Pegicorn" (sometimes "Pegacorn"), a Unicorn-Pegasus hybrid. The text is in my font Action Jackson:

Taylor Swift Pegicorn (Action Jackson font)
Taylor Swift Pegicorn (Action Jackson font)


You can also see this drawing/font at the beginning of the "Making of" video for You Belong With Me". I think she posted this to twitter in May 2009, but somehow I'm unable to find an archive of her tweets from this time (inconceivable??).
(7 comments — almost 7 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from August 2023
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A Failure Is Me (31 Aug 2023 at 23:46)
Terrible! I was thinking all day about how I needed to write a blog-post and how I'd surely have time after such-and-such meeting or after the 6:00pm concert, but I didn't get back home until after midnight. So this post is backdated in the most embarrassing of traditions. -1,000 points

Tonight we saw two great tastes that go great together: Alex G and Alvvays. I think both of these bands are great. Alvvays has been on my radar for many years, but they didn't quite click for me until their most recent album Blue Rev, which is probably my favorite disc this year (although it came out in 2022). It's definitely one of those albums that I like to listen end-to-end, but it also stars on the 5 minute playlist that I am using for my aforementioned project to run a 5m00s treadmill mile, so I listen to two tracks from it (Pharmacist and Velveteen) many times a week, often in pain. Alex G I discovered from the soundtrack to the indie film We're all Going to the World's Fair. I also think his music is great, and weird, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around how many people were at this pretty big concert venue enraptured by this kinda weird band. I think the simplest explanation is that "the kids are alright."

Anyway, now it is quite late and I am quite tired. I am still working on this math project and still "making progress" but wary that it's been in that state for quite a while now. But I do basically know how to finish projects or move onto other things!
(3 comments — 7 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from July 2023
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New Computer 2023 (31 Jul 2023 at 23:35)
Boy, it sure is summer! I'm actually enjoying the heatwave, because it makes me feel accomplished for actually getting the A/C fixed before it was too late (even though it took 9 months, mostly anxiety about talking on the phone to strangers) but also because I enjoy running when it's very hot. It increases the self-flagellation factor. The woodsmoke: Not so much. I've done a lot of treadmill running this month because of that, and because it's convenient to fit an intense workout in at or after work if it's a busy day. In addition to the ongoing project to get a 5m00s mile, I've added 5k back to the mix. My best time is 18m32s, a 5m56s/mile. It's a little easier on the treadmill (mostly because of the lack of air resistance, although the automatic pacing does help), but it does seem likely that I could beat my all-time 5k PR at the moment. So if I don't do that before getting out of shape again, please criticize me.

Earlier this month I nerd-sniped myself with "a little programming problem" and one piece of collateral damage was my computer: This program was a large computer search, and I have a rule that I'm only allowed to shop for new computers when I'm waiting for my computer to finish computing. So I was shopping for a new GPU (this is a CPU/GPU joint task) and eyeing the GeForce RTX 4090, which you can actually get for "normal" retail prices now. The GeForce RTX 4090 is an absurd graphics card, likely the world's biggest (like, physically biggest) and I knew that ordering it might lead to needing to shop for a physically larger motherboard or case or something. But that was just a Risk I'd Be Willing To Take, as another rule is that I'm allowed to buy a physically larger computer box or board to fit already-purchased components onto, if need be. When this chonky boi came, replacing the already-big-but-now-Lilliputian-by-comparison 3080 Ti, I benchmarked my routines one last time and powered down and tried to get Mr. 4090 in the computer, rearranging cable runs and everything in order to squeeze each last cc. As a reminder, this is a GPU so big you have to plug it in four times. I eventually squoze it in there, and then the computer would not boot with error ​🇨​​🇴​​🇩​​🇪​ ⊒ᕈ ​🇩​​🇪​​🇹​​🇪​​🇨​​🇹​ ​🇲​​🇪​​🇲​. This was somewhat expected. So I put the old tiny board back in, and booted the computer to another 🇨​​🇴​​🇩​​🇪​ ⊒ᕈ ​🇩​​🇪​​🇹​​🇪​​🇨​​🇹​ ​🇲​​🇪​​🇲​. I manually detected the RAM (was where I left it) and reseated it. Still no love. Only ⊒ᕈ. So it seems the komputer was now kaput. Since I was doing some serious crunching prior to that I like to say that I computed too hard, but the truth is that I probably just broke the motherboard with the squeezing.

I'm glad this didn't happen during the acute phase of the chip shortage, because at least this month it was straightforward to find parts at retail prices. I went with the Threadripper again. It has its problems but I've just gotten spoiled by all the cores and I could imagine having "only" 8 or 16 cores. I got the 5975, which is also 32-core, but benchmarks about twice as fast as my previous computer. This computer is not, like, a good deal. But I really spend a lot of time on the computer so it seems like a reasonable thing to splurge on. 256 GB of RAM for the big ML models (slow) and/or storing five uncompressed copies of Wikipedia in memory. Heck yeah.

I had to upgrade the case to fit the Extreme ATX motherboard. Now I can't put my feet up on my computer tower under my desk any more, which means that I can't sit back and relax with my hands behind my head while my computer crunches. So this weekend I was also making a bit of foot furniture for under the desk; I made this out of trash as usual. I will show you next time, but it's currently waiting to be glued in the basement so it's not quite ready to be documented.

On this programming problem: I keep going back and forth about whether I'm likely in unexplored territory or else it's totally obvious and I'm making some rookie mistake. That can be exciting, though as of last night I'm mostly feeling like the latter. Somehow it's hard to give up on, though. I hope I can survive the sniper wound at least, since I've got several other projects in the works that I was also enjoying.

I have a few more stories, but I will save them for next time. Back to the glue!
(1 comment — almost 11 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from June 2023
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Unhealthy for sensitive groups (30 Jun 2023 at 11:52)
Quick one because we’re currently in Toronto and I will be holding up the Torontoing if I take too long to write. This is a weekend roadtrip with some friends, with the primary event being to see Herbie Hancock at the Toronto Jazz Festival. I was very impressed with how energetic and with-it Herbert was, at the age of 83. I hope I can hold up that well when I’m old(er), or have access to whatever super-drugs he has. Good show, although for most of us it was really just a pretext for having a road trip to explore this nice city. Unfortunately the trip has been ravaged by these wildfires, which have been blanketing this whole part of the continent with a choking miasma. At times the air has been rated “very unhealthy,” pushing into “hazardous,” probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. I find I’m pretty sensitive to it. So, sadly, one of my favorite vacation activities (exploring by running around) has been contraindicated, and we’re often doing reverse-covid masking protocols (mask outside) etc. The “good” news is that Pittsburgh seems to be actually worse than Toronto, so at least we didn’t drive into the Airborne Toxic Event; more like we drove around within it.

Since finishing my last video I got on to a project that was enqueued and that I was excited about, and then I got immediately sucked into another idea that came up, and then a third timely one. One is “very risky,” (probably won’t amount to anything), one is “risky” (may not work, but probably a decent fail-tale) and one is very likely to succeed with some work. So that’s a good mix. I’ve been trying a new thing as summer starts and the sun comes up early, which is to just get up and out of bed as soon as I wake, even if it’s hours earlier than I’d normally stir. Then I make a coffee and work on personal projects before work. It’s definitely making me a lot more tired (duh; I am getting less sleep) although it’s helping me fall asleep at night (duh; I am more tired). The unexpected thing about it is that it’s generally making me feel less anxious, because I’ve already gotten some work done on projects each day (so I don’t feel like I’m “behind”) and I enjoy starting the day with some focused Tom Time instead of heading directly into the barrage of e-mails and interruptions. Not sure it’s sustainable though.

We had some other wildfire smoke earlier this month, which made it natural to continue the habit of running on the treadmill indoors. The main goal continues to be to run a strict 5m00s mile, and the main method continues to be intervals where I try to run as long as I can at that pace, but I’ve set some “casual” treadmill PRs in the meantime: I did a 19m15s 5k, which is faster than I’ve ever done a 5k on the road, and a 5m17s mile, which is in the ballpark of my all-time best mile (5m05s; but I was in my 20s for that). These are all strict, where I don’t touch the handles or anything like that. But the treadmill is easier than outdoors because you don’t have the air resistance. Still, it looks like I should attempt a serious 5K during this cycle.

I’ve been playing Tears of the Kingdom and I think it’s great. Like the previous game, I’m playing it Tom-style: I’m only upgrading my stamina and focusing on exploration and deliberately trying to approach everything the wrong way. Lots of good opportunities for that, although I do feel like this game is a bit too hostile if you do this. (Easily missable but essential events, like during the tutorial.) I’m also pretty deep into Cathedral, a solid NES-style Metroidvania. I think the highlight on that one is the graphics and music (except for the graveyard music, which might be the most annoying track I’ve ever heard?); recommended for genre fans.
(4 comments — 11 months ago)   [ comment ]
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