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Entries from August 2022
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Do we do Dewey or Rehoboth or both? (31 Aug at 22:43)
Wow, August sure went by fast. Unfortunately the Covid after-effects I mentioned in the last post are continuing to vex me, specifically the lightheadedness/dizziness that just happens throughout the day. It's pretty annoying, but having had some tests now, at least we can probably rule out some scary things, and it might just be a matter of taking it easy for a while. Taking it easy is not easy for me but I do like hard things!

On that front, we went on a short little vacation to Delaware, which is drivable and has some nice beaches on the Atlantic ocean. Even though it was a very hot weekend and the second-to-last of the summer, it was less crowded than I was worrying, and generally quite nice. Before that we saw The Beths in Baltimore, at a great little club called Ottobar. I love this indie rock band from New Zealand and they rarely play in the US, so I was willing to make a trip to see them; of the drivable places Baltimore was the only one that didn't conflict with anything. But after we booked it they added a show in Pittsburgh! In fact they are playing a few miles away just as I write this. But the show and venue was great and we did other stuff on the trip, so no regrets. On the way back for example, we stopped at the corner of Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to hike into the woods to the little stone marker that indicates their triple-point (I guess this was also where the Mason–Dixon line began?), for the sake of my side quest to "run" (hiking counts too I guess if I'm recording a GPS trail) across as many border crossings as I can. Doing multiple crossings in one trip is bonus points. This one is not as good as Germany, France, Switzerland but it's still good bonus points.

I did finish Thimbleweed Park, which I recommend for genre fans, though I did have to get a couple of hints. I tried Cursed to Golf but I don't think I'm getting into it... it just feels a bit too slow to do the actual golfing and too easy to have your run ruined by a mistake you made several strokes ago. I decided I needed a thing that's less frustrating, so I picked up Sniper Elite 5 which is exactly what it sounds like.

I made some more stuff for my expansive and silly programming project that will probably become the subject of my next technical video, so that's something. The ICFP Programming Contest is this coming weekend, and I will participate in that with the same old crew (look for team "Cult of the Bound Variable") as long as the programming task is appealing.

OK but now I must get to bed because I have an early doctor's appointment tomorrow.
(2 comments — 2 weeks ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from July 2022
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C\shamrock{}VID-Jr. (31 Jul at 23:12)
Well, it looks like the last post was right when I had "recovered" from COVID the first time. I had tested negative several days in a row, but then started feeling bad again, and had a full rebound with strong positive tests and everything. The second time through was a lot worse than the first but after five more days I was at least testing negative again. Since then I'm mostly back to normal; a lingering cough (not surprising) and some bouts of lightheadedness. These had been keeping me from running (plus trying to take it easy) most of the month, but I have been picking it up a bit for the last week or two. It's pretty weird how my legs feel in shape but the rest of the body, not so much. Quite a contrast with two months ago when I nearly ran a PR marathon. Bleh!

Fortunately I am not experiencing "brain fog," at least no more than the usual 40s stuff. So I've been spending a lot of time on this silly programming project I mentioned in the previous post. For a while I had the feeling that I had invented a "programming contest" for myself and was in "the good part" of it (is it even possible?; breakthroughs while thinking about something else; optimizations reducing from "possible but silly" to "almost reasonable"; etc.). And maybe this is a good way to conceptualize future projects or project prompts. This one is still in the expansive phase but I have some "results" for sure now, and I think a story is starting to come together. Of course it remains confidential but how about this mysterious image?

op4strobe
op4strobe


Amazingly this 80s "school portrait laser background" emerged from an ernest attempt to visualize something computational, not to create artwork.

I did finally finish Elden Ring. I certainly didn't 100% it but I visited all the places you can go and beat all the accessible dungeons and bosses and that stuff. It's definitely a good game that I recommend, although it did suffer from the same late-game absurdly-strong-character problem that most of these open-world games have. I truly had no idea what was happening in pretty much any of the cutscenes, which I think is a compliment. After that one I wanted something pretty different. I played through MO:Astray which was a decent but forgettable puzzle platformer (highlight here are some well-designed boss fights). I'm also about half-way (?) through Thimbleweed Park, which is a point-and-click adventure by the creator of Monkey Island (one of my all-time favorites). It's good in the same way those old LucasArts games were, and obviously targeted at people like me. I have only needed a few hints but I admit to such weakness after trying to apply every verb to every pair of inventory item and object in town, you know?
  [ comment ]
Entries from June 2022
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C\shamrock{}OVID-22 (30 Jun at 23:58)
Hello. I bolted from my chair in the middle of a relaxing late-night game of Elden Ring after remembering to do the ceremonial post before the end of the month.

A few weeks ago we went to Ireland for a wedding (not mine), the first time I've been there and our first international trip since COVID. It was pretty fun; we drank beer (I discovered that Ireland has good beer, but Irish Pubs are not the place to find it: It seems to be part of their "thing" to just have the same 5 mediocre things on draft) and went in some castles and climbed some rocky mountains. But then we got infected with COVID, which makes sense, as the wedding activities were exactly the kind of thing that will give you COVID. This was a rude disruption to the vacation that created many logistical problems and costs, but we did make it back and have pretty much recovered by now (I'm testing negative and even did some gentle running). I took antivirals (Paxlovid); it's hard to know whether they specifically helped me, but I think it is cool technology and it seemed likely from looking at the studies that it would do more good than harm. So assuming that I continue to get better and can continue my running training, it might even turn out to be overall a relief to have that in my rear-view. \fingers_crossed{}

During my illness I played a lot of video games (of course) since I wasn't finding much energy for projects. I played through Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate (recommendation and gift from Adam); I've been a Benjamin Soule fan since the early days of Ludum Dare and this game is a good exemplar. The gameplay is a bit like Crypt of the Necrodancer (but turn-based). I beat it on hard and that's enough for me. And speaking of Chess I also discovered the engine called Maia, which tries to predict human moves rather than trying to destroy all humans with computer precision, and this is my new favorite engine to play against (it's on lichess as @maia1 or @maia5). It is much more fun than Stockfish because it will fall for traps and when it makes a losing move, it tends to be a reasonable looking one, not like the weird random ones that low-level Stockfish will make. But anyway back to the finer arts, videojuegos: I also played through The Looker, which is a free, single-sitting parody/tribute to The Witness. It has a few creative puzzles in it, and I found it funnier than I was expecting ("Gravity's Rainbow", ha ha), enough to get me through the uncustomizable controls! Then I played ElecHead which is a short puzzle platformer. This game has a small set of mechanics (which felt fresh) and they get a lot of mileage out of them, with constant new ideas. Very good game. I even stumbled upon the mysterious developer room organically. And then finally I'm on my hundred-somethingth hour of Elden Ring, but I'm pretty sure that when I destroy this other tree or whatever it is I'm doing (????), it will nearly be over.

I do have a little programming project going on, though, and I managed to succeed at the main "joke," so I'm pretty sure it will at least become a little paper or maybe even short video. So that's nice!
(4 comments — almost 2 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from May 2022
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Pittsburgh Marathon 2022 (30 May at 22:37)
Hello! This month I've been taking a break project-wise: Not letting myself start anything big, or feel bad about not finishing projects that have been lingering for some time. This is nice, and I did a little bit of tinkering, but mostly video games, summer travel, and fixing things around the house. (For example I replaced those miswired basement outlets described in in my last video with proper GFCIs, and hooked the correct color wires to the correct terminals. Seriously, how does anybody screw this up??)

In the previous post I mentioned that I'd run the Pittsburgh Marathon, my first real race in some time. No costume. I have been running pretty much daily since early 2020, and did about two weeks of 10k/day in the run up to this, which is a pretty decent load. I only slept a couple hours the night before (preoccupied with urgent thoughts like "what if I don't get enough sleep for the race??"), but somehow I felt quite good for it. The temperature was excellent (50°s). I didn't have any particular plan except to give it a solid go. About 10 miles in, I saw that I was actually just ahead of the 3h30m pace group, which was better than I had expected. So I decided to stay ahead of that, and maybe with a kick at the end, even challenge my all time best (which I set in my first marathon actually, at the age of 28). It had been drizzling a little but right around then it started to rain really hard, which did slow me down. For example because it melted the paper bib—which you need to bring with you for timing purposes (has some RFID in it) and to show that you are Authorized To Run (nobody cares about this) and so that if they photograph you, they know it's you and can send you Last Chance To Get Your 2022 Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon Official Race Photos from PhotoZone™ every week for the rest of your life—so I was trying to figure out how to re-safety-pin that thing while keeping the pace. And worse, stuff like your shoes get soaked with water and then you have heavy, squishy shoes. This race goes right by my house, like I can see my house at mile 18 or so. It's not even so much that it tempts me to stop because I'm right there (the shower is appealing but you can just think about how painful it will actually be with the chafing), but the inescapable thought that now I need to run all the way back downtown, and THEN find my way back to where I already am. Probably I have already complained about this in a previous post; it happens every time. Anyway, I kept ahead of the pace group, and thought maybe I could even beat my PR, but I couldn't remember what it was? 3h26m? Something around there. I finished in 3h25m43s; 251st place (10th %ile). This is a pace of 7m49s/mile, which ain't bad for a 42 year old. Since I had ditched my shirt (soaked, useless) and figured they wouldn't let me on the bus without it, I ended up walking home (5.5 miles). It was colder when walking. But I got a great Civic Arena shirt from a guy on the way in the Strip for a sweaty $10. (When I got home I found that my PR is actually 3h23m04s, which knowledge probably would have caused me to run faster!) Since I came so close, it's clear that for the next one my goal needs to be to actually set a new PR. It'll be somewhat dependent on conditions (like today it was 90° F and I gave myself a headache struggling to run 8.5 miles at 9m16s/mile pace!) but I can do it. We're probably going to do Detroit, which also helps on my side quest to run across many borders: This one, improbably, crosses (south!) into Canada through the mile-long underwater Detroit–Windsor tunnel.

OK this is all :)
Category:  races (3 comments — almost 4 months ago)   [ comment ]
Entries from April 2022
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SIGBOVIK 2022: Harder Drive (30 Apr at 21:35)
This month was SIGBOVIK 2022, and I did a project called Harder Drive. There is a paper but as usual the premium experience can be had in the video version:

Harder Drive video thumbnail

Also as usual with these ambitious ones I was quite sick of the project at the end. Video editing is just such a grind. So I was relieved that many people liked the video. The algorithm seemed pleased too, and I got well past the 100,000 subscriber mark. This qualifies me for a free commemorative plaque. It is not guaranteed to grow in value, or even retain its value.

I added a few items after the initial post. There's now a torrent file with all my ping data and a viewer program for windows, which I'll keep up for a bit longer (it's just too big to host permanently; somehow disk space is always so limited on these cloud linux servers??). I also put up MP3s of the title card themes ("ringtones") over on the Tom 7 Entertainment System land of Musical P3s. Completionists may also be able to see a hurried live-recorded version of the talk on the SIGBOVIK Twitch account, which reportedly has a hilariously malfunctioning auto-camera (perhaps due to my face-detection-thwarting over-the-top tyvek body suit and mask). Although I can't seem to find the full video now so maybe it expired; I dunno, I don't understand how Twitch works. Anyway, you're not missing that much; the official video is much better. There were only two live talks this year (from two old guys, one being me) but there was an astonishing amount of content. The proceedings are 350 pages (I'm pretty sure this is the longest ever) apparently without even any funny business like dozens of pages of portmantout, and there were are a lot of well-done videos from around the world. I haven't dug into the papers much yet (I am still waiting for the printed version) but it was heartening to see so much participation. In Feburary it sorta looked like it wasn't even going to happen!

Speaking of CDC, I'm going to bed right now (okay, maybe a touch of Elden Ring first) to wake up early tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Marathon, which is back! I don't have a costume; I'm just going to try to run it like a regular 42-year-old. I have been running basically every day, but it's pretty unpredictable recently whether I'll feel great or medium or bad when I go out to run (probably a combination of overtraining and allergies or allergy medication). So I'm not sure if it's going to be good conditions to try to run it hard. But I haven't run a real race in a few years, so I'm looking forward to this as an opportunity.
(4 comments — 3 weeks ago)   [ comment ]
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