Thursday was SIGBOVIK 2018, held on April -2, the earliest it has ever occurred, due to various holidays and weekends. I don't have any grand project this time, but I did write one paper and coauthor another. The latter was with the SIGBOVIK elder Jim McCann (and was mostly his work); it's The fluint8 Software Integer Library for processors that only have floating point instructions. My other paper was a basically real (but not that rigorous) analysis of a huge database of academic papers to demonstrate that authors with alphabetically earlier names get more citations. That one's called Academic Advancement Advice: Author Articles as A. A.. It also contains some other related study, like the title words most and least likely to get you cited. I wish I had finished some more things for the conference, but on the other hand it is nice that it has so much independent momentum!
My neck has been getting better so I've been doing some running and physical-universe projects, which are not too interesting to describe here. But I have also some fun stuff underway, in particular for two speaking engagements in Seattle in May: PoCSci which is like UW's version of SIGBOVIK, and Deconstruct which is a more serious—if still tolerant/encouraging of weird stuff—event. The project is going well so far but it's a bit stressful, since you never really know if it will even be possible until you're knee deep in it, you know?
Old man complains about discomfort
(28 Feb at 23:37)
Here we are again!
My neck is still giving me and my arm nerves trouble, though it is not as dire as it was in January. I've tried running a few times when it wasn't hurting too bad, including a 5K (Race for the Cure) while on vacation in Florida. I did reasonably okay, finishing 7th overall (eponymous) and 1st in my age group (old mans) with a time of 21m08s. It's a good reminder that the daily elliptical machine or exercise bike does work OK for keeping me in shape, even if I feel pretty rotten. Hopefully next time I'll report that I got better on my own or have some plan to fix it, because this is NOT COOL!
Did I even do anything else this month? I finally built a table saw sled, which is useful for making e.g. other table saw sleds, and finished the basement shelves project I described in the last post. The Learnfun/Playfun work is coming along, though some stuff (from the 3Dification project) that I expected would be easy to apply turns out to be harder than I thought for my test game (Contra) due to the crazy way that game works. So I've done some generalization of that, which is at least a fun puzzle. Unfortunately it's unlikely that I'll have this ready for SIGBOVIK, so I gotta think of something else (presumably simpler!) for that deadline, which is in two weeks.
I can heartily recommend Celeste if you like a hard platformer game, as I do. It's familiar gameplay wise, but it does almost everything right, has charming art and story, and just loads of challenges and secrets. I've played it a lot this month and finished most of the reasonable stuff (almost all the berries, hearts, b-sides) in 25 hours and 6688 deaths so far, each delicious. 10/10 would buy again.
I've continued up my streak of "running" every day, now passing the six month mark, although "running" now expanded to include the exercise bike. I was already counting treadmill (seems natural) and elliptical (maybe more questionable but it is clearly running-like), but the bike seems to me like a bit of a departure. Unfortunately it's for a pretty annoying reason, which is that an old malady, this herniated disc of mine, has been acting up something fierce this month. I don't know if I ever posted about this (closest I can find is Post #47, Theme from Spinal Fluid, still good), but basically two of my neck vertebrae are squishing the guts of the disc between too hard, and then the disc guts blow a hole in the disc wall and shoot out guts all over my spinal cord, which is where most of the good stuff happens in the body. It looks like this (or did, in 2012):
Theme from Spinal Impingement
The thing at the left is a slice of the cervical vertebrae, the grey tube to its right is the spinal cord, and the big black blob at 0,0 is herniation ground zero. Anyway I had this thing for a while, mostly just a literal pain in the neck, but for the entirety of this month it's been (I presume) impinging on my arm nerve roots and giving me awful phantom arm pains ("radiculopathy"), which are exacerbated by footfalls. This has pretty much precluded real running, and made pretty much everything else pretty painful, so it's been a bummer month. This is a problem that's likely to be solvable eventually (basically worst case is surgery), so that's good, but also will likely involve weeks or months of annoying and disruptive pain. It's good that I have the exercise streak going, because otherwise it would be a very tempting excuse to just laze around.
On the other hand I have gotten some good project work done this month. One is a fairly boring house project, tearing out some old moldy fiberglass insulation in this crawlspace/closet and putting in better moisture-resistant stuff, and then building these needlessly sturdy shelves:
I cantilever not butter
It's a bit hard to tell, but they're cantilevered, which requires more work (good) and provides more space (also good) because there's no support on the front side (so for example I can still put big objects on the floor under them). There are a couple of mistakes but I'm pretty happy with it for a crawlspace kinda install. (Also they're not totally done in this photo; I need to do some finishing still.)
Then, since finishing up my last video I've been back at my old NES "AI" projects again. I've been working on it off-and-on for several years, actually, with lots to say, but this month I finally had some breakthroughs that has it performing pretty impressively my test game (namely, winning it in about 96 hours of CPU). That win isn't totally hint-free like my previous work—you could call it "cheating"—so there's more to do before I'll consider this really to be a proper v2. But here's a image from tonight's experiments:
Basically this graphic shows that the 48 hours of tuning is pointless because the parameter does not affect the outcomes any more than luck (which may actually be good news?). But despite the complexity I'm beginning to put together a strategy for making videos about the new pieces, some of which are interesting, maybe targeting SIGBOVIK? And speaking of SIGBOVIK, the 2018 site and call-for-papers is up, so consider making something!
The movie above is another fun project, I hope entertainingly explained, with some twists. It concerns the dismemberment of letters to generalize anagrams, which I call anagraphs. It was presaged in post 1146 which may give you some idea how long it takes me to finally finish such projects. This one lended itself to some interesting computational problems, which I wisely realized would better exist in a completely separate video; it's this:
This latter movie is far less polished and rated C for College, because it's basically a lecture about decidability, specifically two uses of the technique of reduction to prove an undecidability result, and then a decidability result. If you like that kind of stuff, you will probably enjoy it, but if not, you were warned!
Also crossed off the checklist, I 100%ed Super Mario Odyssey and finished some books I was reading, as well as keeping up my streak of running every single day (today was #159). This makes my slate clean to start on new projects, a state that I just love being in, and will likely postpone through the holiday! Happy new year to you!
Too bad, so sad, I didn't finish anything interesting yet for a blog post for November. I have an in-progress video about something previewed in post 1146, but other than that and some regular musical doodlings, this month has been pretty light on the creative projects. Exacerbating factors include: (1) "Super Mario Odyssey," a real nightmare for completionists like me with its apparently ~1000 stars to collect. Have about 800. (2) The fine-as-in China game "Cuphead" which I am really enjoying. Aside from one flameball sprite that is really bothering me, it has one of the most incredible visual styles of any game in recent memory, and I personally think the difficulty is spot on. Almost done with this one. (3) Traveled and read some books, finishing "Station 11" (★★★☆☆) and almost finishing "Inadequate Equilibria" which has some flaws but is overall very interesting. (4) The busy time of year at work. (5) Continued my now pretty long-running streak of running every single day no matter what. Due to poor record-keeping at the beginning (not knowing that it would become a streak), I'm not completely confident what date I actually started on, but by now I've worked out that it's at least 137 days, so we're calling it a 137-day streak. I have some software to process the run data, which could produce graphics for a future blog post, but right now it's just some squiggly lines that don't make that much sense, like so:
Squiggly lines that don't make that much sense
The running is hard and saps the creative energy but it's good for me. I'm pretty invested in the streak now, thinking about the endgame, but it's a bit tricky since I don't want to encourage myself to do something stupid (e.g., get to the point where I dangerously run through an injury to unlock some achievement).