Terrible! I was thinking all day about how I needed to write a blog-post and how I'd surely have time after such-and-such meeting or after the 6:00pm concert, but I didn't get back home until after midnight. So this post is backdated in the most embarrassing of traditions. -1,000 points
Tonight we saw two great tastes that go great together: Alex G and Alvvays. I think both of these bands are great. Alvvays has been on my radar for many years, but they didn't quite click for me until their most recent album Blue Rev, which is probably my favorite disc this year (although it came out in 2022). It's definitely one of those albums that I like to listen end-to-end, but it also stars on the 5 minute playlist that I am using for my aforementioned project to run a 5m00s treadmill mile, so I listen to two tracks from it (Pharmacist and Velveteen) many times a week, often in pain. Alex G I discovered from the soundtrack to the indie film We're all Going to the World's Fair. I also think his music is great, and weird, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around how many people were at this pretty big concert venue enraptured by this kinda weird band. I think the simplest explanation is that "the kids are alright."
Anyway, now it is quite late and I am quite tired. I am still working on this math project and still "making progress" but wary that it's been in that state for quite a while now. But I do basically know how to finish projects or move onto other things!
Boy, it sure is summer! I'm actually enjoying the heatwave, because it makes me feel accomplished for actually getting the A/C fixed before it was too late (even though it took 9 months, mostly anxiety about talking on the phone to strangers) but also because I enjoy running when it's very hot. It increases the self-flagellation factor. The woodsmoke: Not so much. I've done a lot of treadmill running this month because of that, and because it's convenient to fit an intense workout in at or after work if it's a busy day. In addition to the ongoing project to get a 5m00s mile, I've added 5k back to the mix. My best time is 18m32s, a 5m56s/mile. It's a little easier on the treadmill (mostly because of the lack of air resistance, although the automatic pacing does help), but it does seem likely that I could beat my all-time 5k PR at the moment. So if I don't do that before getting out of shape again, please criticize me.
Earlier this month I nerd-sniped myself with "a little programming problem" and one piece of collateral damage was my computer: This program was a large computer search, and I have a rule that I'm only allowed to shop for new computers when I'm waiting for my computer to finish computing. So I was shopping for a new GPU (this is a CPU/GPU joint task) and eyeing the GeForce RTX 4090, which you can actually get for "normal" retail prices now. The GeForce RTX 4090 is an absurd graphics card, likely the world's biggest (like, physically biggest) and I knew that ordering it might lead to needing to shop for a physically larger motherboard or case or something. But that was just a Risk I'd Be Willing To Take, as another rule is that I'm allowed to buy a physically larger computer box or board to fit already-purchased components onto, if need be. When this chonky boi came, replacing the already-big-but-now-Lilliputian-by-comparison 3080 Ti, I benchmarked my routines one last time and powered down and tried to get Mr. 4090 in the computer, rearranging cable runs and everything in order to squeeze each last cc. As a reminder, this is a GPU so big you have to plug it in four times. I eventually squoze it in there, and then the computer would not boot with error 🇨🇴🇩🇪 ⊒ᕈ 🇩🇪🇹🇪🇨🇹 🇲🇪🇲. This was somewhat expected. So I put the old tiny board back in, and booted the computer to another 🇨🇴🇩🇪 ⊒ᕈ 🇩🇪🇹🇪🇨🇹 🇲🇪🇲. I manually detected the RAM (was where I left it) and reseated it. Still no love. Only ⊒ᕈ. So it seems the komputer was now kaput. Since I was doing some serious crunching prior to that I like to say that I computed too hard, but the truth is that I probably just broke the motherboard with the squeezing.
I'm glad this didn't happen during the acute phase of the chip shortage, because at least this month it was straightforward to find parts at retail prices. I went with the Threadripper again. It has its problems but I've just gotten spoiled by all the cores and I could imagine having "only" 8 or 16 cores. I got the 5975, which is also 32-core, but benchmarks about twice as fast as my previous computer. This computer is not, like, a good deal. But I really spend a lot of time on the computer so it seems like a reasonable thing to splurge on. 256 GB of RAM for the big ML models (slow) and/or storing five uncompressed copies of Wikipedia in memory. Heck yeah.
I had to upgrade the case to fit the Extreme ATX motherboard. Now I can't put my feet up on my computer tower under my desk any more, which means that I can't sit back and relax with my hands behind my head while my computer crunches. So this weekend I was also making a bit of foot furniture for under the desk; I made this out of trash as usual. I will show you next time, but it's currently waiting to be glued in the basement so it's not quite ready to be documented.
On this programming problem: I keep going back and forth about whether I'm likely in unexplored territory or else it's totally obvious and I'm making some rookie mistake. That can be exciting, though as of last night I'm mostly feeling like the latter. Somehow it's hard to give up on, though. I hope I can survive the sniper wound at least, since I've got several other projects in the works that I was also enjoying.
I have a few more stories, but I will save them for next time. Back to the glue!
Quick one because we’re currently in Toronto and I will be holding up the Torontoing if I take too long to write. This is a weekend roadtrip with some friends, with the primary event being to see Herbie Hancock at the Toronto Jazz Festival. I was very impressed with how energetic and with-it Herbert was, at the age of 83. I hope I can hold up that well when I’m old(er), or have access to whatever super-drugs he has. Good show, although for most of us it was really just a pretext for having a road trip to explore this nice city. Unfortunately the trip has been ravaged by these wildfires, which have been blanketing this whole part of the continent with a choking miasma. At times the air has been rated “very unhealthy,” pushing into “hazardous,” probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. I find I’m pretty sensitive to it. So, sadly, one of my favorite vacation activities (exploring by running around) has been contraindicated, and we’re often doing reverse-covid masking protocols (mask outside) etc. The “good” news is that Pittsburgh seems to be actually worse than Toronto, so at least we didn’t drive into the Airborne Toxic Event; more like we drove around within it.
Since finishing my last video I got on to a project that was enqueued and that I was excited about, and then I got immediately sucked into another idea that came up, and then a third timely one. One is “very risky,” (probably won’t amount to anything), one is “risky” (may not work, but probably a decent fail-tale) and one is very likely to succeed with some work. So that’s a good mix. I’ve been trying a new thing as summer starts and the sun comes up early, which is to just get up and out of bed as soon as I wake, even if it’s hours earlier than I’d normally stir. Then I make a coffee and work on personal projects before work. It’s definitely making me a lot more tired (duh; I am getting less sleep) although it’s helping me fall asleep at night (duh; I am more tired). The unexpected thing about it is that it’s generally making me feel less anxious, because I’ve already gotten some work done on projects each day (so I don’t feel like I’m “behind”) and I enjoy starting the day with some focused Tom Time instead of heading directly into the barrage of e-mails and interruptions. Not sure it’s sustainable though.
We had some other wildfire smoke earlier this month, which made it natural to continue the habit of running on the treadmill indoors. The main goal continues to be to run a strict 5m00s mile, and the main method continues to be intervals where I try to run as long as I can at that pace, but I’ve set some “casual” treadmill PRs in the meantime: I did a 19m15s 5k, which is faster than I’ve ever done a 5k on the road, and a 5m17s mile, which is in the ballpark of my all-time best mile (5m05s; but I was in my 20s for that). These are all strict, where I don’t touch the handles or anything like that. But the treadmill is easier than outdoors because you don’t have the air resistance. Still, it looks like I should attempt a serious 5K during this cycle.
I’ve been playing Tears of the Kingdom and I think it’s great. Like the previous game, I’m playing it Tom-style: I’m only upgrading my stamina and focusing on exploration and deliberately trying to approach everything the wrong way. Lots of good opportunities for that, although I do feel like this game is a bit too hostile if you do this. (Easily missable but essential events, like during the tutorial.) I’m also pretty deep into Cathedral, a solid NES-style Metroidvania. I think the highlight on that one is the graphics and music (except for the graveyard music, which might be the most annoying track I’ve ever heard?); recommended for genre fans.
As noted before, this one is definitely pretty esoteric; refreshing for some after the way-too-relatable Pac Tom video. As usual, I started loathing the project at the end, so it was heartwarming that people cared about the video at all, let alone enoyed it. The video follows the paper pretty closely this time, which of course can be found in the epically long SIGBOVIK 2023 proceedings. I finally got my copy and have been working through it.
But, mostly this month has been a refractory period, compounded by the release of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I have been taking my time with this one, but as you have probably heard it is a large and good game and so that time has been considerable. Before that I finished off Lone Fungus; it was a good game, although I didn't get into it enough to want to complete all the optional astral fragments (the ones with the swinging spike balls are just irritating?). Ladybugs were enough!
I did work on new projects, of course. Not much to share about those, though. Both of the active ones are of the sort that "this might not work at all," which is kind of thrilling, but also kind of bad for me. So I need to balance it with some things that can definitely succeed but still scratch the project itch, like "make a nice CAD model of this thing even though a napkin sketch would suffice," or "do performance optimization on this library even though it doesn't need to be fast."
Ha! Remember when in the last post I said "maybe this weekend" about the video version of my SIGBOVIK project? Well then I started seriously working on it and remembered how much work video editing is. Also once I got into making it, I realized that this one is not really for general audiences, and the only appropriate approach is the "relax with your weird friend Tom as he gives an hour-long lecture about esoteric computer things, with occasional slapstick, and then at the end you're like wait what happened?", which is one of the more involved styles of video (mainly because of the hour-longness). It's really almost ready now, but it's not going to be done in time for this blog post, so April Fool's On Me, I guess. Probably tomorrow?
Pac Tom is making the rounds in local media now, with the latest being in Pittsburgh Magazine, just in case you are somehow not yet tired of that! Since the new year I've been working on a different kind of running project, which is to run a 5 minute mile on the treadmill. Back when I was about 29 I came really close to five minutes on a track (it was like 5m05s). At the time I wasn't particularly trying; I mean I ran that mile as fast as I could, but not with any particular goal in mind. I always regretted that I didn't just go back every weekend until I came in under 5:00. The treadmill is definitely easier, both because you don't have any air resistance, and because it paces for you, but it's still a good challenge would probably help me put that ghost to rest. What I've been doing is putting the treadmill at 5m00s pace (and I found out that this is as fast as it'll go, 12mph) and trying to run as long as I can at that pace. I'm up to about three and a half minutes. I may already have it in me, but part of this is just the mental struggle of making myself feel like I can keep it up that long, so approaching it gradually seems better for that. (And anyway you don't want to finish your projects too fast, you know?) On the way I set some new treadmill 5k PRs, although these did have a little bit of handsy stuff (holding onto the bars, which you can pretend is for taking a heart rate measurement, but it's really just because it makes it easier) so I won't claim any specific times here. Hands are not allowed for real records, like the fantasized 5 min mile.
Video games: I did finish COD of Duty 2, by getting each gun to its maximum level. I do not recommend doing that. Then I played through The Entropy Centre, which is a Portal-alike 3D puzzle game (not bad; I did have fun "solving levels the wrong way") and then Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero. The latter is a platformer, maybe a "Metroidvania." Lots of Magic Girl Anime vibes / humor. I really liked the one before it in the series, "Shantae and the Pirate's Curse." This one was also fun but I was not a big fan of the 3D environments, especially since you end up replaying the same maps so many times? But now I'm on to Lone Fungus, another Metroidvania which is definitely not as good in the art department, but which does have a bunch of precision segments that I'm enjoying. In this game there keep being areas where I'm like "I bet I can do this jump already with damage boosting etc. even though I clearly don't have the right equipment yet," which of course I love and grind away at, but then the equipment I need is right on the next screen, which takes some of the fun out of it.
I think this is all. I'm going to put the final touches on this vid!