Tom Murphy VII Awkward: I am running to catch the bus to the airport, a little late so carrying my luggage on my shoulder (also wearing backpack). Another person is out for her 4:45am jog. Not only are we going the same (very slow) speed, but we're like, right next to each other on the road/sidewalk and there's nothing else awake in the whole town. Uh, hey. PIT → SFO. almost 7 years ago · Comment
Tom Murphy VII Spoiler alert: Lost finale is just a clipshow narrated by an Orangutan, all of which takes place on the Holodeck. almost 7 years ago · Comment
Tom Murphy VII 2nd row tickets to Devo in July! (And the obligatory: Fuck Ticketmaster). almost 7 years ago · Comment
Pittsburgh Marathon 2010: Project SHARKWEEK
(02 May 2010 at 17:57)
YES. You guys know I like to run races in costume, or carrying something, or otherwise making it conspicuously difficult. Well, when I signed up for this year's Pittsburgh Marathon they allowed us to pick a 9-character personalized vanity bib, and since the first thing that came to me was SHARKWEEK, I did today's marathon in a shark costume. At first, it was just a dream, with this as the prospectus:
Erika, a costume whiz, helped me get started planning it out and correcting my grievous anatomical mistakes, but then I slacked off for ages not working on it, until I bought a sewing machine and then put together the costume starting Friday night on my own. It's highly overengineered, with an adhesiveless design, inner wireframe made of coat hangers, and tailored felt with reinforced stitching. I discovered that pretty much every part of a shark's body is shaped like a coat hanger:
It was a good long day of remembering how to sew and which unfortunately lasted longer than I wanted it to. I decided to punt on the gills, which were unanatomically located anyway, but otherwise it pretty much came out as I had hoped. Here's shark-face:
I was worried about this race, though. Weather reports predicted temperatures up at 80°F at some point, plus thunderstorms. That'd be bad for just running regularly, but one of this costume's main difficulties is how it seals in the flavors and spices. I wanted it to be hard but not heat-stroke hard. And then I had unwisely stayed up until 12:30am finishing the costume, and also I couldn't fall asleep until 2 or 3am because of Pitt's graduation party noise, heat, allergies, and excess energy from tapering. Despite the 3 hours of sleep, and not being able to find my bicycle pump, I biked downtown with the costume on and with a flat tire (the biking is where I first discovered how obstructive wearing a tail can be, particularly when it gets caught in the wheels), tried to find my friends running (couldn't) and then started towards the back of the pack. Part of the idea of this costume was the mental image (hopefully communicated to some) of a shark (me) attacking a swimming (running) throng of people (people) at the beach (marathon course) trying to get to shore (finish line), eating all the ones who weren't fast enough.
It turned out that despite all the looming potential disasters, it really went quite well. Temperature was mercifully in the 60s. The costume was hot, for sure, towards the end of the race forcing me to walk off problems that I knew weren't just exhaustion (e.g., headache) but it was way better than it could have been and I managed to run the first 18ish miles only stopping for water, and only some modest walking in the last 8. The costume was heavy and soaked up water when it rained on us for most of the race, but honestly the water there wasn't as bad as it was in my shoes. Although the head would stay on pretty well if I was just walking or biking, when running it would bounce too much (bad design). I therefore had to spend the whole race holding it on, usually with an internal handle under my chin. The coathanger shoulder-"rests" dug into my shoulders the whole time and left some pretty grody bruises, but given all the other sharp pieces and metal burrs it's a miracle I didn't come away with some real serious abrasions or stabbed as the thing collapsed around me (it held up almost perfectly). The tail was an unexpected difficulty: As soon as I actually started running I realized that I was kicking it and probably would be for the whole race. So I used a shorter than usual stride, but still it was pretty tripoverable and I was hitting it or worse with every step. That's fine, think about what a shark with feet must feel like! My official time was a garbage 4h29m49s, which is about a 10 minute mile, more than an hour slower than my non-costume first marathon.
The costume itself went over extremely well. The Tribune-Review says,
Marathons usually bring out their share of off-the-wall running apparel, from tuxedos and wedding gowns to Elvis impersonators, but there were relatively few that engaged in the offbeat this year. One of the few was someone who donned a shark's head and dorsal fin for the occasion.
Still Pittsburgh runners have not picked up on the fun of costume-running. Other than all the trouble, it's the best: The whole race other runners are running up to say hi or you overhear them saying to a friend, "I just got passed by a shark!" The crowd who is sitting there in the rain waiting for their one family member or because they can't go anywhere because the roads are shut down, they completely love it, so you get people from all backgrounds laughing and clapping and shouting, GO SHARK MAN!!!, and the water station volunteers who are doing labor in the rain for nuthin' in return always perk up, and little kids trying to figure out what is going on with that dude but with that little kid smile where they know something's funny but don't totally get it. Two people recognized me as the guy from birthday cake running. At some point a woman comes up to me who had been running at a mutual pace for a while and says, "You have made so many people smile today."
(BTW Thanks to Gabe and Someone on Twitter for the pics. I can't photograph myself while running yet.)
One of my favorite groups to make smile is the live bands or musical cheering organizations like the dance music cheerleaders. In this race I slowed down in front of every such group (probably about 15 of them) and did an interpretive dance to their music. This was so fun. I got several of the singers to mess up their singing from laughing, and some bands made musical or lyrical reference to the shark (like the cover band that lamented having just played "Fins" right before I got there), and the cheerleaders were flipping out, chanting, "go shark! go shark!" and pumping their fists. The best was when a school band saw me coming and quickly arranged a full marching-band version of the Jaws theme—not kidding, this was completely amazing—and I did the hunched over swimming lurch by them.
Most people only see the shark for a few seconds, so it's interesting to get a catalogue of thousands of people's first reaction. I was surprised that Land Shark was the most common thing shouted, since that skit is pretty old now. It's not like every shark costume is depicting land shark just because it's on land. If I were dressed as the International Space Station, would they say "Land-ISS!"? No. Also popular: Sharky (don't know if this is some specific cartoon character but it was too common to not be), Shark Man, Shark Boy (at least one referring to the Rodriguez film), Sharkweek (reading the bib), and in single digits: dolphin (?), whale (?), alligator (??). I get the benefit of hearing the quips so many times over the four hours that I can develop and refine comebacks. Like at the water stations, if someone takes the last cup of water right ahead of me, "Save some for the fishes!" or when biking back home against the runners who hadn't finished yet, and someone goes "26.2 miles is not enough, now you're going biking?", I say, "Yeah, it's a triathlon. The swimming part is easy."
Ludum Dare 17: You Keep Flying
(25 Apr 2010 at 23:06)
Ludum Dare is a 48-hour solo game programming competition on the internet. This is my first time doing it; I participated with a bunch of friends all hanging out at my house and stayin' up late. The theme for this competition, announced at the start of the contest, was islands:
Here is my game that I made, called "Is Lands?" (submission) which is about landing a plane. You can play by just visiting that page, because it's Flash. (The game is very short.) I didn't plan well for this one, in that I spent too much time struggling with physics, its interaction with scrolling, and refusing to use existing libraries for it. (Despite all the work you can still see a bunch of silly stuff happening when you put your plane in a solid object.) I should not have spent so much time investing in a quick way of generating content without actually then investing significant time in content creation. There are only two levels and neither one even uses physics significantly. But, highlights: I think the atmosphere is pretty good, from the title screen to the parallax to the soundtrack to death chords which are tuned to the soundtrack. The off-screen arrow was a deft (though not new) solution to an annoyance where Flash wouldn't let me create movieclips large enough to actually surround the enormous playing field. Most of the things that I like about the game came about without any real work, which is usually the way it goes. Of course I've got no chance in the contest, but it was worth the weekend and I'd do it again for sure. (Unfortunately put myself a little out of shape for next week's Pittsburgh Marathon!)
Other people in my party: William made bouncecrab (submission), Lea made Pirate-Go-Round (submission), and David made Geology (submission). Those are all downloads and I can't guarantee anything. William and David were using my SDLML library and were having release problems as they tried to submit (though I tried to warn them hours in advance to start doing hourly submits). But I think they had fun and I think they'd be in for next time, too.
I'm kind of on a Flash game kick recently, since I made another game for SIGBOVIK. I haven't posted it here yet—it's much better than this one and I have been polishing up some corners before I post the final version on Tom 7 Radar. (But if you do some light digging it's not hard to find.)
Happy 10th Anniversary, Stalkertron 2000!
(31 Mar 2010 at 19:56)
Holy sh—it's been 10 years since the first post on Tom 7 Radar. Here's post #1. There are no comments because at that time there were no readers and no ability to leave comments. I was in college and had written the Tom 7 Radar software as one of the first applications of my functional web scripting language, which seemed advanced at the time, called "aphasia", as a way to post updates without having to cut and paste HTML each time. Now that there are a 1,000,000,jillion web-blogs on the internet that's not particularly special, but at the time I must have thought it was pretty keen since I would write about the tiniest stuff that I had done, like some minor-ass improvement to some software nobody cares about. Since then there have been a little over a thousand posts and almost 10,000 comments. The most popular is still Bathroom Mushroom, which is like a support group for people who experience surprising fungus in new household places. The category momentous collects important life occasions and favorites collects my personal favorite projects and writing, even if about incidental "today I ate eggs" stuff.
But generally, minutiae bores me. These days I pretty much only use it to report interesting news, usually to post my projects, which are mainly some combination of: Music, Running, Drawing, Programming. I'm happy to report that even with my modern high standards, I've had at least one post each month for the entire existence of the site, leading to the nice dense grid of months and years at the bottom of the page.
Enough of that! I'm trying to post pretty much exactly in the same minute as the first post, so not much more to say right now. But: Tomorrow, April Fools Day, is SIGBOVIK 2010 and I've got a neat new project (game) that I'll post here. So check back tomorrow!
Pac Tom website and Level 2
(21 Feb 2010 at 12:44)
I'd like to introduce you to the Pac Tom website, where I'll be organizing my project to run the length of every street in Pittsburgh. New look, look:
If you go there right now you'll see this very blog post, which contains a picture of the site, which is what you're already seeing, which etc. Maybe you got here from somewhere else and you're wondering why the site tells you that you should visit itself. That's cuz it shows all Pac Tom news, and this is Pac Tom news. But there's other better stuff there too, like a new description of the rules, downloadable KML files of my routes, and brand new maps. Here's the main one:
In post 1039 I congratulated myself on finishing Level 1, which is all the roads between the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers (conspicuous sinuous voids in the map above). That was over a year ago, and since then I've made significant progress on Level 2, which is the rest of the city. Each of the colors in the map above is a different trip, though some trips get the same color because there aren't that many colors and they're assigned randomly. I finished off the remote colony of Lemingon-Lincoln-Belmar that's across the river to the far Northwest in one go. (It's pretty weird that this is part of the same neighborhood or even part of Pittsburgh; it's almost entirely a shopping plaza. Must be a tax thing.) The rest of the year has been spent on the neighborhoods to the south of the Mon.
This is way harder than Level 1 was. Obstacles: It's about 6 miles of running just to get from my house to new roads, which I also have to do on the way back, so a minimal trip is 12 miles; they're usually more like 20 so that I can get deep down there and then cover some streets. You can tell from the map that I've been favoring the roads that closest to the borders. I like to do this so that I can "finish off" the periphery and not have to worry about it again; on the way there and back I can pick up some new roads shotgun style. (I'm almost done with South Side flats only via taking different routes through it on my way to other places.) The furthest points imply about a 30-mile round trip (you can see them way off to the West). I haven't done those yet, but I have done some 30-mile trips, so I know it will be possible and painful. Obstacle #2: This area of the city is ridiculously hilly. Level 1 sure had some steep streets but the South Side and West End are worse. Just getting there means running up the Slopes or Mt. Washington, and then the hills roll on. Garmin Connect, which is what I hook my GPS into, pretty much always assumes that the physical activity I'm doing is "Stair Climbing" based on the elevation change. The steepest paved road in the world is there, in Beechview! I'm not complaining, though. I love it.
One of my favorite things to do with the thousands of miles of GPS data that results from the project is various visualizations and computation. There are some more maps on the site and some more coming. I'll post about these soon.
Here's a newly recorded Sick Ridiculous & etc. song, Duckles Chuckles. We wrote it for Stephen and Laura's going away (eventually everybody gets married, gets Ph.D., and gets outta Pittsburgh) party; the cover picture above is from when we debuted it the first time in public (with dance routine) at Club Café on New Year's Eve Eve.
In order to fully understand this song, you need to know that Duckles Chuckles is fringe local slang for Washington, D.C., where Stephen and Laura moved, that Stephen's login ID was "smagill", and that "all up in my Chevy Chase" is like a quadruple entendre, with Chevy Chase being cockney rhyming slang (which you might consider "Duckles Chuckles" akin to) for "face", and also the name of various towns and neighborhoods and agglomerations thereof in the DC area, and thus an example of the confusing geographic status of common to the area, referenced in the first line. Nice one, doods.
Of course if we were writing this song today it would have to include Snowpocalypse, but rest assured that one of our newest unheard songs may or may not be about winter weather!