In a few minutes Allison and Cortney and I are heading off to Cleveland to run in the Cleveland Half-Marathon. A half-marathon is only half a marathon, obviously, but it's still about 14 miles. I'm feeling a bit undertrained and my allergies are acting up so my modest goal is merely to finish under two hours. Wish me luck, particularly on weather! Also there is apparently live tracking this year, so if you need to get your surveillance fix and happen to be awake on Sunday morning, you can track me as bib #4385.
This morning David Blaine failed to take the world record in competitive apnea, perhaps because he spent 177 hours underwater beforehand to melt his skin and give himself liver failure and then decided also to perform an escape routine while holding his breath. Thing is, David, why do you need to be such an overachiever? Why not, like Ashrita Furman, simply go for more obscure records like the longest distance walked by a person balancing a milk bottle on their head (sic) and most hopscotch games in 24 hours? This kind of nickel-and-diming netted Mr. Furman the record for most Guinness records in different categories, and once you start getting records about how many records you have, it's like the gift that keeps on giving.
Cortney and I took a somewhat impromptu road trip up to Toronto this weekend. Since she already posted a detailed account of the trip for posterity and I'm still kind of wiped out from all of the bustle, I won't repeat the story here. But I've posted some pictures from the trip!
Another fun and busy weekend. On Friday I ran in the Random Distance Run (see also my shirt design). The roll of the dice was <6, 5>, which is just one lap short of the maximum of three miles. But three miles is no problem for me these days. I did pretty well, finishing in 8th place at a pace of 6:20 per mile.
After that we biked downtown to watch the Pirates play baseball. It was a great experience; the weather was totally lovely, our team played well and it was the first time I've ever been to a professional sporting event and seen my team win!
"Easter and Taxes! But taxes sure are boring. Let's not talk about that. On Easter weekend we helped to prepare a lovely and alarmingly gourmet dinner replete (this usage problem is thus placed in the blog post like a hidden Easter egg for you, grammarnerd) with mojitos and microbrew, and to demonstrate our ability to be simultaneously classy and childishly base we also roasted marshmallow peeps over a Sterno on fondue forks to make S'meeps and microwaved them so that they'd explode Mr. Wizard style, encouraged or at least prophesized by the fortune-cookie message Ms. Nerd's mom sent with the Peeps, namely
HELP STAMP OUT PEEPS ABUSE
and we also dyed Easter Eggs just like old times. You have already seen some of those eggs above. If you look carefully, a few of the eggs appear toxically slick, because they were coated with a strange 10¢ egg-dyeing kit which still stains my hands more than a day later, despite scrubbing with the most potent solvent known to mankind (nail polish remover), so I am just going to wait until my fingers exfoliate and take that sticky shit with it, like how sharks don't use dentists or teeth-sharpeners, they just keep squeezing out new rows of teeth when their old ones get dull.
Speaking of cavities, Neal and I have just invented a new candy. It's called milk coffulate and it's just plain old milk chocolate except that where every granule of cocoa dust was once present, it is instead replaced by finely ground coffee bean. What do you think? Does this confection already exist? Often when I have a good idea it is in fact the case that it has already been invented.
Continuing in reverse chronology: On saturday it was national Really Nice Day in Pittsburgh Day, and Cortney took me on my first ever urban bike riding trip. We went downtown on the Furnace Trail and then to the South Side. I find running or bike riding around town to be really empowering much unlike driving a car, which I find really panic-inducing and crummy. I still need to build up some ass callouses or whatever the analogue of callouses are for muscles because my butt is really sore from that hard seat, but I'm looking forward to more biking as the weather gets even nicer. That night we went and saw Winterpills and Rosie Thomas at the Club Café, which was a good show as usual. When I visited the merch table to pick up a Winterpills CD the guy invited me to visit the band's myspace profile, which means that either I am too easily pegged as an internet kind of guy or myspace is even more commonplace than I have yet to become comfortable with. But now my band's myspace profile is friends with his band's myspace profile, whatever that means.
Speaking of internet entertainment systems, my internet music friend MAT64 has a new album TurboLoad out which I am rocking to right now. The last two songs are especially good. This is Commodore 64 chiptune stuff, so only listen if you like to LOAD *,8,1.
Wow, is this long enough yet or what? Speaking of long, in a bit of spare time I made an entry for the 2006 Underhanded C Contest. (I've always wanted to enter the International Obfuscated C Code Contest, but the competition there is really stiff; I figure it'd be better to get in on the ground floor with a relatively new contest.) Here the idea is to write a program that appears to be a very normal and easy to understand program but that conceals some devious behavior. In this case, you have to write a simple "benchmark" application that runs with vastly different performance on two different operating systems. (Mine runs about 130 times slower on Linux than it does on Windows.) This kind of contest is almost as fun as the IOCCC, but makes a more important point: Whereas everybody sort of already knows that one can write very obfuscated code, this contest makes it clear how easy it is to write programs that look trustworthy (even under substantial scrutiny) but that contain malice like backdoors and such. This fact is really damning against software projects like OpenBSD that attempt to build secure and robust code merely by pouring a lot of time into looking at and testing it. This kind of contest really shows that this is a losing battle if there are malicious parties involved, and highlights the usefulness of something rather more infallible like Proof Carrying Code for ensuring the saftey (or some day maybe even correctness) of code from unknown origin. Since the contest doesn't end for another few months though, I'm going to sit on my entry in case any brilliant enhancements occur to me.
Speaking of programming contests—one last thing—we have been pouring a lot of time into the ICFP contest and I think it is going to be just so damn fun this year. Pass on the word to your programmer buddies and please do take a look come July."