Most of my local friends know about this because I talk about it a lot, but I haven't really blogged about it yet (except for some oblique references that probably came across as jokes), but I am really doing it and I wanted to update you on my progress: I am trying to run every street in Pittsburgh. I call this "Pac Tom" because it's like Pacman on a larger map without any ghosts or Power Pills. "Every street" comes with a few caveats for this project:
By Pittsburgh I mean (for now) "continental Pittsburgh", which is what I call the part between the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers (roughly half the official area of the city, which is 53 mi).
I'm not running on most interstates or state roads without any kind of reasonably safe pedestrian access. (I'd estimate there are only about 15 miles of such roads.)
I'm not requiring myself to run any of the dozens of staircases that are officially marked as streets (!) although sometimes they are good shortcuts.
Other than that i'm really trying to cover everything, using on-line maps and my GPS device. Up above I've posted a map of my progress so far, with my tracks in red—click for a closer view. The colors are the various neighborhoods. I do insist that I'm running whenever I'm moving (no walking!) but usually rest a couple times during each trip. It's difficult to gauge how much I've done (since you can't really see the streets in that map) but I'd estimate that I'm about half way done. So far I've run about 530 miles (many of these miles overlap) in about 74 total hours. If you're curious about the specifics, part of the process of getting these tracks into Google Earth is uploading them to Motionbased so you can check out that list, at least as much as they'll show you for a non-paying user like myself.
I think this is a really fun and worthwhile project. Occasionally it can suck: injuring myself when 6 miles away from home can be a problem, or not being able to find any water (now I carry a little bit of cash so that I can ride a bus or buy some gatorade in a pinch), or running a grid of streets and then noticing that my watch froze twenty minutes ago and all the work was lost (grr!), or running miles down a road to find that there's really no way for a pedestrian to continue, and having to turn back. But it is vastly more interesting than running the same streets every day, and I've found so many cool things that I never saw before in my 9 years in this city, and never would have seen otherwise. I've also really improved my sense of direction in the city—I almost feel like you could drop me off in any place randomly here and I could find a short path back home. (But don't do that.) Pittsburgh has a lot of features that make it particularly fun: its topology in terms of roads (grids are rare) and elevation (it is very hilly) make exploring interesting. But when I end up eventually getting a job and moving, I'm pretty sure I'll do it again for whatever city that happens to be.
Last night for Cortney's birthday we had a murder mystery party. Even though nobody figured out who the murderer was I was voted the best actor for my role as the inspector! It was a lot of fun and happy birthday Cortney!
Also, we went to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last night. It's so fun to see Pittsburghers all riled up about sports (this was no Steelers game, but still pretty intense). Ottawa beat us, although it was a close match. I'd still be optimistic except that now we have to win 3 in a row....
I am making the Random Distance Run shirts again this year (2006; user-hostile directory listing) and I am again soliciting bad computer science puns to make up the fake sponsors on the back of the shirt. I already have a number of programming language in-jokes, so the best idea is not about programming languages or logic (but some other obscure area of CS/math is great), is some kind of product or service, and is excruciatingly groanworthy. I'm pretty dried up on ideas (having used so many for SIGBOVIK and in previous years), so you're my only hope! Let me have 'em!
I made a new version of my puzzle game Escape today which incorporates a lot of changes I've worked on over the last 5 months or so. The OS X version (coming in a few hours) is now a Universal Binary. There's one new tile: the "remote", which I believe will prove to be very powerful. Since the old feedback thread is monstrously long, this post will serve as the new one.
OK, I fixed the RSS feed so I don't really need to post 11 times, but why not?
Today I found out that I've been scooped again (see one other time), this time by my favorite American brewery: witness belt-buckle bottle opener! Imagine crass fraternity boys (with strangely good taste in beer) opening their bottles with their crotches. Why isn't Dogfish Head already jillionaires?
Here's the deal: If I post 11 more times then my post about space time will be out of the rss feed and then Livejournal will stop crapping out on my radar just because Space Time uses illegal characters from the future or whatever. So I am going to try to post more often for the next 11 posts. That might mean that I have to tell you about less exciting things like the Research or the Department.
The ICFP submission deadline went flying by without me finishing my compiler in time... it turns out that despite all my confidence I simply can't write something that big that fast if I want it to not be a pile of poo. Since this is my thesis research I don't want it to be a pile of poo. I did make a lot of progress though. I don't think it will be that hard to finish my PhD this summer if I can figure out and implement 2–3 mildly tricky research things in the next month or so.
One thing that is distracting me from that is serving on the committee to appoint (officially, recommend to the Dean) the new Head for the Computer Science Department. (Our current Head, Jeannette Wing, is taking an even bigger-shot job at NSF, at least for a few years.) The process naturally has a lot of confidentiality constraints so I can't really say much about it, but I will say that it is a real husky-sized load of meetings. We're like trying to meet with all of the faculty in the department (there's 60ish?) in half-hour-that-always-turn-out-to-be-hour-long sessions, and trying to be done by the end of the month. Two weeks ago I had six meetings for this one committee in the same week. I do actually think it's an important job but jeez. Fortunately unlike most things that chew up your days this has a built in timebomb namely that we need to put someone in that chair in about a month or else the department is gonna be Sleepy Hollowed.
OK, forget lists of unrelated paragraphs; those are boring and they do not contribute to 11 radar posts. Enough! Happy Easter!
Well, the faux/real SIGBOVIK conference on April 1 was a staggering success. Basically, Harry Q. Bovik is a fake graduate student that the Computer Science Department uses for various purposes and in-jokes. His 64th birthday was this Sunday so we had a conference filled with joke papers and presentations in his honor.
The website has a full draft proceedings, and I think soon you'll be able to get a bound printed copy to enhance your office's gravitas or to place with randomly generated call numbers into your university's engineering and science library.
If you hate reading you can watch the totally pre-recorded version of "Generalized Super Mario Bros. is NP-Complete" (make sure your sound is on, and wait for the whole thing to load before starting it) (warning: this is very immature) or look at the talk for Wikiplia (but this mostly consists of words). Both need the newest Flash player. Since I really implemented the latter (I think the only SIGBOVIK paper that comes even close to being real) you could also just use it, at least until I eventually shut it down for taking up too much of my office machine's resources.