It is your civic duty to vote
(30 Nov 2005 at 20:40)
I am installing instant messaging. Thinking of a good "screen name" is giving me horrible anxiety. Mike had a good suggestion that I could register a bunch of names and then ask for input. So here are some that I registered:
Despite warnings to the contrary, it is actually really easy to get good numberless screen names if you have my tastes. (They do start giving you fake error messages if you register too many in a row, but I have good evasive maneuvers for that kind of thing.) The only one that was already taken was wanna cyber, perhaps by someone with a less keen sense of irony. Also, the 13 character limit means that counter-strike favorites like "thesis proposal is not optional", "dances with woolite" and "octogenarians die in crash" are out. What do you think? I can't guarantee to listen to your votes, but some time meditating on this will help, at a minimum.
Jeesh, so busy! Everything seems due this week, even if it has no official deadline. They are: SC Paper, Thesis Proposal, Artbus. But, I will succeed.
Also, the headphones of my MP3 player broke again this morning. I have repaired them way too many times by now (they are covered in electrical tape and wire ties, perhaps you have seen this) so I guess I will have to get new ones. This makes me very depressed because I hate running without rock'n'roll and chiptunes and I hate not running, also because it is wet outside.
It was good to see my family, especially my dad, who is recovering from having a "benign" pituitary tumor removed in September (laparoscopic surgery and then months of radiation therapy). Pictures of family thanksgiving stuff are here. Basically none of my friends go back to Hamden for thanksgiving any more, so I spent most of the time hanging out with my younger brothers' friends, who are pretty fun so that is not so bad.
Two amazing data points about this feast weekend: I was surprised how easy it was to not eat any meat the whole time, which means that my experiment with vegetarianism continues unharmed. (Yes, after eliminating all those other pointless handicaps, I now need some other arbitrary restrictions to fill my fatwa void, so I have been trying this for a couple of weeks.) Actually, I imagine thanksgiving is probably one of the hardest times to have dietary restrictions, because of all of the traditions and sentiment tied up in the food. So I am thinking vegetarianism is not nearly as hard as I thought.
Data point two, perhaps related to point one: I actually lost 0.5 pounds over thanksgiving week, which is like backwards, especially since I ate a ridiculous amount of pie (both pizza and apple). Wha??
Tomorrow I gotta hit the emacs hard, because I must finish my thesis proposal before the end of this semester! I want 1,000 instant messages from y'all encouraging as much! (Wait, that's a terrible idea...)
Let's Adventure! version 62
(27 Nov 2005 at 01:34)
I know that if your knuckles get too white gripping the keyboard in anticipation of the next version of my adventure game test (see amusingly minimal prior installments #3 and #54) that this can increase your risk of osteoarthritis, and I am not the kind of friend who increases the risk of osteoarthritis. Therefore I present adventure62.swf. Please shrink your browser to about 550x400 for best results. Most of the work on this version was actually tearing my hair out to fix a "bug" that you probably did not even encounter in the previous version, where the player would mysteriously disappear. This turned out to be due to an extremely bizarre "feature" of removeMovieClip in Flash (Query me for an animatedly exasperated technical explanation in person, if interested, especially if I am drunk). There are a lot of new little things to look for, though: now there are five rooms (find 'em!), the player can say things with LucasArts-style following text, there is the ability to pick up items by clicking (but then never use them), and fully working openable doors that actually prevent the player from walking through them when closed. Bug reports welcome.
Remember, to play: use the arrow keys to walk around (just press, don't hold) and Click! to activate things when you're near them.
Thanksgiving update! Today was actually quite nice, so Mike and I went for a little photography trip around the woodsy roads of Hamden. Here are pictures from that trip (or just the best artsy ones). In an incredibly unlucky coincidence, during my few moments of exposure while photographing a waterfall (see above) the water police drove by and gave me an Official Written Warning for criminal trespassing (see above). Despite my frequent harmless phototrespasses around the country, this is actually my first ever official warning. It is like a badge of honor! (made of flimsy carbon paper)
More boring stuff: Since taking up running basically none of my pants fit any more (in a good way), so my mom took me to get new cool jeans as a birthday/thanksgiving/Christmas present. Unlike shoes shopping, where it is impossible to find anything that fits me (7½ 4E) so it is just completely hopeless without special orders, jeans shopping is mildly exciting: some places actually make and stock jeans in 30x28, but they are like rare treasured jewels among the stacks of regular clothes. We got some! At the end I did check out the kid's section (thanks for the suggestion, Jaked ) and it seems that I can maybe just barely fit into XXXL husky kids jeans as well. There are way more toys in the kid's section, too, so I think that might be an overall win.
Also: The Tom and Mike family Pictionary juggernaut takes home the cup again, as usual. You wouldn't believe how quickly we got "six nipple popeye."
Hello? What are your coordinates?
(22 Nov 2005 at 01:02)
Hooray! We made it back to the Connecticut. The drive went pretty smoothly—those dual gas pedals we had installed really hit the spot. My mom and dad and doggy stayed up to greet us, and I guess tomorrow or wednesday there will be a further confluence of siblings. Mike and I have planned a series of coordinated familytime gags that will seem impromptu and clever, but which are actually premeditated. There is not that much to do in the car, after all.
The image above is a poster I made for Adam's birthday, which was yesterday. Happy birthday Adam!
For reasons unknown, much of this party revolved around a game where you stand on one leg and try to pick up a bag with your mouth. Because I start closer to the ground and am pretty flexible, this was totally easy for me, so I upgraded to the cup game, where I do the same thing with a Dixie cup. This was just barely out of my reach for several tries throughout the evening, but I eventually got it!! See above. I think this picture is so hilarious (particularly the genuine excitement of the guy in red); big ups to Marcus for capturing it. Sorry it didn't make the Post-Gazette.
Tomorrow afternoon Mike and I head back to CT to visit the dad and the rest of the family and to eat the thanksgiving.
A question for the peanut gallery
(18 Nov 2005 at 16:32)
I have a question.
I got an off-camera cable with my flash unit. The documentation, which is the standard 6-languages on one foldout sheet thing, says at the bottom, "Subject to change without notice."
The question is: What is it that they think they might change and how do they think they're going to do it? I've already got the sheet of paper, and I've already got the cable, and it's just a damn cable!
Operation: Fun continues apace. On monday Mike and I saw the Penguins play the Islanders, which was a very exciting game. I hesitate to admit the following, for it might mean that a dedicated penguins fan might blame my curse for our overtime loss, but never in the history of live professional sports have I attended a game that "my team" has won. And it's not just that I like shitty teams, either; I think when our family went to see the Blue Jays when I was young, the home game we saw actually ended their 9 game winning streak. Anyway, needless to say, PGH lost, and needless to say, they lost in overtime, but it is needed to say that they lost after the longest shootout in NHL history (fair enough, the shootout rule is new to this season) and that Crosby is a real joy to watch. Dude's got the moves.
Last night I went with Erika and Reed and Rachel 7 and Val? and Steve and ?? and ??? (sorry, I am bad at names) for some authentic African Congo music via Konono No. 1 at the Warhol museum. Since the guy who introduced the band implied that we'd be insulting them if we didn't dance, I do not deny attempting to shake my booty. The music was interesting, and their homemade instruments endearing, but I was actually expecting it to be a bit weirder. I didn't expect complicated melodic structure, of course, but it seemed to be pretty much 12-tone equal temperament (or else my ears are not good enough to tell), and the rhythm (where I expected most of the action to happen) was actually quite repetitive. (Props for the phrase being like 36 measures long, though..) Still, pee pee beer helped me appreciate the undulations at a more visceral level, and watching hipsters dance is hilarious, so all in all, well worth it.
God, I hate Andy Warhol.
Those who know my rules will be surprised to find out that I ordered a fancy ass flash for my camera. This is in keeping with my new strategy of eliminating pointless handicaps. I mean, taking pictures in near darkness is great and all, but if you've got the gear, you can make it look good even with an artificially luminescent 50,000lm blast coming from your forehead. I can make it happen. And now my camera will for sure be the biggest on the block!
I have continued work on my Adventure game test. You can play here: adventure54.swf by using the arrow keys (don't forget to click on it first, or it will probably ignore your keypresses). In this version I have added depth scaling of the player (omg TRUE 3D), improved the componentization of the code (not visible to you) and added doors so that there can be multiple rooms in the game! This was surprisingly hard to do right—flash has some really weird ideas about when certain objects should be recreated. I think I came up with a robust and convenient way to do it, though. Like a ZZT neophyte, I am merely adding onto the slapdash room that you've already seen. Once I get everything working I can think about actually doing a nice job of drawing stuff.
All you can do is walk around in the three rooms, so don't get too excited. Next, I need to figure out how the player actually interacts with the world (inventory and actions and stuff). I also need to improve the floor clipping to be a bit smoother, since it hard to walk around obstacles right now.
If I get to count Friday morning (why not?) then I am happy to have finally broken the twelve minute barrier on one of the routes that I run around Shadyside. (1.91 miles in 11:57 = 6:15 pace, not bad!) This thing had been taunting me for weeks, where I'd push on the last stretch but always be a few seconds over twelve minutes. My longer route similarly vexes me, but it will fall soon. Aren't totally arbitrary goals great? I recommend setting some yourself.
If I get to count Friday afternoon (who doesn't?) then a stimulating lunch with old and new friends, an uncharacteristically relevant meeting with the POP seminar speaker, some breezy hacking and then bites and brews with the dudes at Bites and Brews.
The big event on Saturday (now we are definitely in weekend territory, right?) was "Puzzlequest 2005." This is an annual (and sometimes multi-annual) all-day puzzle competition at CMU. I believe this was our sixth time participating. Did I tell you guys that we always come in the top few teams, and never win? Because this time we came in fourth again, just outside the prizes bracket. A very fun year, though. Sadly, Adam could not join us due to avian flu or whatever. But first year and ConCert alum Ruy proved a worthy replacement. Rounding out team Eating Buildings were Jason and William: stalwart compatriot and newest official inductee, respectively. In the picture above you can see us workin' it. (In truth; those other guys are workin' it, which is why they are not facing the camera and actually looking at puzzle stuff, whereas I am posing, having just set the camera on timer-mode and so cognizant of its impending activation.) One of the highlights this year was solving puzzles in totally incorrect ways: one of them I solved by port-scanning their server Wargames style, and a few of them Jason solved by brute-forcing parts of the metapuzzle. The product of my hacking on friday—the puzzle auto-solving software "Puzzletron"—did also solve one of them, but it was the easiest in the pack. Next time it will actually be complete, and then you watch out, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st places!!
This morning I used the last drop from my Suave shampoo bottle, the only one that I have owned since shaving my head in 2003. Total spent on hair-care products over two years: $1.79. For only pennies (I mean like 0.22 pennies) a day you too can have a sparkling fresh haircut! Take that, hygeimony!
Here is what I worked on today. I am thinking of making old Sierra-esque adventure games in Flash. So far, this is actually pretty convenient. Here is a little test I made: adventure3.swf. Use the keys to walk around (might need to click on it first to give it focus), and that's all you can do. Note that you can walk behind stuff with proper clipping. Observe the hilariously jerky animation and gratuitious alpha effect.
Next I have to figure out how to use this OO nonsense so that I don't need to keep cutting and pasting code for each of the objects in the scene. Then, add inventory, and it's basically done! ;)
Andres Segovia Interests Me
(05 Nov 2005 at 18:33)
If all went well, then I now have a reputation in the shadyside party scene as that guy who always has a semidangerous object with him, e.g. rock hammer or staple gun, but uses it only for good (e.g. breaking up the frozen treacle fudge, stapling your beer can), not evil.
The SML community is again trying to make revisions to the language to keep it vital. (We tried in 2001 but it was a disaster!) To do this they've created a mailing list and wiki. The mailing list has become increasingly surreal as people use it as an outlet for their own half-baked personal dream features or syntactic complaints. (Highlights include the use of LaTeX as the surface syntax or presentation language or something (??)—it has got to be a brilliant troll—and an attempt to get us to use Quaker organizational structure in the decision making process (???)). Anyway, I hope people get this out of their systems soon so that we can make some of the important and reasonable changes that the language needs.
Tonight we are going to the three rivers film festival to see some cult movie with the soundtrack performed live by Pere Ubu (!!). This can't help but be a bizarre and wonderful experience.
Well, nanowrimo (the write-a-novel-in-a-month thing) is going on again right now, but I am not doin' it. This is because I didn't get the things done that I told myself I should have done before attempting something like that, and those are Separate Compilation Paper and Thesis Proposal. This makes me a little sad, since I had all sorts of ideas already worked out, but having already written twonovels, the cost/benefit analysis for a third is sorta grim. Sorry! (Someone apparently called my office a week or so ago and told my officemate to encourage me! Extra sorry to you!)
Still, november will not be for naught. I have a plan to spend time each day working on portfolio-expanding endeavours. First up is fun(ny) little Flash games for the web. (One coming up soon, in fact.) Programming in Flash is simultaneously intensely awful (because the programming language is so, so bad) and liberating (because you can develop a stupid idea into a working graphical thingy so quickly). But most importantly, Flash gets you an artifact that many people can enjoy without too much commitment, which is the way people like it these days. It's like, the total opposite of novels.
Also, I have eliminated my official policy against social networking sites, meaning I now have flickr and friendster accounts. (Thanks, Erika, for reminding me.) I apologize for the massive amount of friendspam I sent out today, which since it is really just one e-mail per person I don't know why I'm apologizing, but I sure felt like a spammer for a bit there. If you have a friendster account that I didn't find, by all means add me, even if you don't really know me. I like to collect friendsters like candy that you can't eat.
Pictures from Brian and Sarah's Wedding
(01 Nov 2005 at 18:33)
I uploaded the good pictures from Brian and Sarah's wedding (see this post). You can see them here: Wedding '05
The picture above is from my first screen-printing experiment, kept secret because the object of the experiment was to create these matching 'his' and 'hers' shirts for part of my wedding gift for Brian and Sarah. These are characters from my game Escape, which Brian and Sarah have been known to play. I wanted to make them something personal, you know? As you can see, I am not a very good screen printer, but it was my first time... Thanks to Jason for showing me the ropes and loaning me some ink!