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Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero (show and demo reel) (16 Apr 2009 at 20:14)
Hey, okay. Finally I have the videos ready to reveal secret project 7H, which is called Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero.

This is part video game and part performance art piece. The video game is essentially an implementation of Guitar Hero, where the songs are Tom 7 Entertainment System tunes. Some of these are ridiculously intricate and most have weird time signatures, which makes for advanced play. It supports keyboard on Mac, Windows, and linux or real USB guitar controllers (like the XBox 360 ones) on Mac and Windows. That includes accelerometers and whammy bar. The best introduction is to watch the demo reel:



As usual, for best results click through to the HD version, or download the 1080p AVI from that page.

This video has a bunch of clips in it, mostly from the Show at Belvedere's. You'll see a bunch of things. One is that I actually mess up a lot when playing. I'm better than this but two things contributed to my mistakes: (1) I was kinda drunk since the show started like 3.5 hours late and I got free beer for being a "musician" and (2) in the last week before the show I was sprinting to get all the software and hardware working, so I actually didn't practice hardly any of these songs more than the one time it took me to decide to put them in the setlist. Once it's available publicly I will challenge you to high-score battle to prove it. Hardware you ask? I didn't build the guitar or drums of course, but I did build the Laser Suspension Womb, which to be more pithy I sometimes call my "USB laser hat." It's a hardhat with a bunch of very bright LEDs and actual laser diodes embedded in it, powered by 1.5A, worn on the head, and connected to the computer via USB implemented on a custom circuit board with a PIC microcontroller. The in-game music and events ("drums were kidnapped!") trigger the lights and lasers to play along. I have a clever hack so that it doesn't need special drivers on any platform, though that's not helping penetration much because there's only one of them. This was my first real hardware project in my adult life, but now that I know how to do it I hope to do more (especially input devices, i.e., "instruments"). It's much better in 2009 than I recall from sticking paperclips and resistors in the parallel port in 1993.

Rock Band drums are supported too. Unlike the guitar, which has a goal pattern for you to match, these are totally freeform. Commodore 64 samples are played in response to drumhits. I wish the controller supported some kind of velocity sensitivity, because that is kind of important for drum expressiveness, but too bad so sad.

Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero Enterprise Schematic


Techno details: The implementation is almost all in Standard ML using SDL, except for the low-level sound synthesis thread and the interface to the USB laser hat. That stuff's in C. It's easy to mix them. The code has some shortcuts in it for sure and deserves to be cleaned up (lots of them introduced in that last week sprint) but it also has some really nice parts, like the algorithm that matches your input to the score. The matching is ambiguous, so there's an on-line dynamic programming algorithm to be maximally generous to your playing. (I don't think Guitar Hero II had this maximally generous algorithm, which was one of the reasons I started working it out like a year and a half ago, but I do think that GH III and on do it right.) The finger patterns you're supposed to match with the guitar, which I call the "score", is generated automatically from MIDI files. To turn a T7ES MIDI file into a T7ES Hero game file, I have to assign instruments to each of the tracks, and then pick which tracks or track parts are supposed to be played on the guitar. The rest is automatic, save some tuning parameters. "genscore" has a model for how closely a candidate score matches the original MIDI (for example, if consecutive MIDI notes are rising in pitch, then it's better for the fingers to also be rising on the fretboard) and then it solves for the optimal assignment, measure-by-measure. I thought that I would need to modify the score after this to get good quality, but it actually works amazingly well. Some of the stuff it comes up with is super fun, like I would assume was created by a human with a good sense of fun. No. Only cyber-brain.

Here's the last two songs of the regular set in full. In this you see that you can actually play drums and guitar at the same time if you're good enough (I am not). 2 player mode? Maybe soon:



I don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity to perform this again (befriend T7ES Band Page on Facebook for guaranteed notification), but maybe. Either way, I'm looking forward to sharing the software with you guys, which I will do as soon as I finish the auto-update and high score table, so that we can compete with each other and I can release song packs.
Categories:  favorites  drawings  hacks  video  t7es  video games (31 comments — 8 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Pac Tom: August 2008 Update (17 Aug 2008 at 19:04)
Pac Tom August 2008 Update
1000×874 version
logoPac Tom project:
site · all · map
Okay, time for our bi-monthly Pac Tom project update. This summer has been very productive for pac-running, mainly because of the long daylight hours, free weekends, and need for introspective time. That's even given the marathon training and now the Great Race training, which mostly consists of running the same course over and over every day. (The upshot is that being in good shape means that on those weekends I can go a lot farther, and since my Pac-efficiency is dominated by the amount of the graph that I can cover once I get out to some distant neighborhood, being able to run twice as far in one go means much more than a 2x improvement in Pac-coverage. I mean if six of my ten miles are just getting to the neighborhood and back, then if I add another ten miles, all ten of those can be used to cover the streets in that 'hood.) Progress update below but first some recent running tales.

Last weekend when I got back from California I must have still smelled like San Francisco or something because I was offered the opportunity to buy drugs by this not-drug-dealer-looking middle-aged woman. I think it is pretty weird, because she was just sitting at a bus stop and then I run by and I don't think I'm like exuding "hey, sell me some pills," and also if her biz is based on waiting for people to jog by this bus stop with cash, she is probably going to not be doing a lot of volume because I would not be surprised if I'm the only person to have run that particular street in 50 years. Anyway she's like, "Excuse me," in a whisper, "Do you know anybody that needs some Vicodins®?" Vicodins® plural, which is not how I'd say it. Normally I like to answer solicitations in very genuinely polite but confusing ways, to decline in a totally new style with no easy retort on the person's solicitation flowchart (to use a Chess metaphor, I like to get "out of book" as quickly as possible) because that is more or less pleasant for both of us and funny to me. For example, when the other lady on the phone is trying to sell me the Caller ID feature, I tell her as genuinely as I can, "I like the uncertainty of not knowing who's calling," and how can she argue with that? I'd like to have provided a similarly confusing answer but really, she had me out of book on the first move, so I was just like, "Uhhh, sorry!". And this wouldn't even be that remarkable (even though it's the first time I was ever offered drugs by a stranger in Pittsburgh) except that less than an hour later on the same trip but in a different neighborhood some kids ask me when I run past, "Do you have any marijuana?" And I'm like whaaa? To be truthful I think these kids were just making fun of me, which is pretty common when I am running in places where I am out of context and I am totally okay with that, but I don't really know why that would occur to them or in what sense that was making fun of me. Some cut-elimination or market-optimization part of me thinks I should have pointed the kids in the direction of the Vicodins® lady to solve two problems. (Once I saw a funny thing in the classifieds section, which might have even been some weird art-joke, which was two adjacent ads, one being a Want-To-Buy ad and the other being a For-Sale ad, both for the same object, described in an unusually and apparently fortuitously similar way. I wish I had saved that.) But I don't really believe in the free market or getting drugs in the hands of kids. Also I feel compelled for some reason to remind readers that I do not do drugs unless you count beer and coffee, which maybe you should count, but I would not use the word "do" for those. Once Percocets® by prescription for the wisdom teeth.

Yesterday I ran 18 miles in Homewood to try to finish it off, with a carefully prepared map and everything. It (the temperature) was hot. When I was finishing up I was super thirsty and I remembered that my favorite Pittsburgh beer-brewery, East End Brewing Co. was having its "Growler hours" at that very time, which hours are a way of selling their beer in jugs in an atmosphere that is almost pub-like without requiring a liquor license or drink-tax liability. And that brewery happens to be in Homewood. So even though I was sweaty-gross and only had three emergency dollars, I figured I'd never be running through this neck again especially during 'hours and boy was I thirsty, so I'd pop in and see if they'd be willing to sell me a non-jug-sized "sample" for those three bucks. I told them my deal and the dudes were like, sorry, but you cannot buy samples because they are free. But it was explicitly cool with them to get several samples even though I was very clear that I was not buying a growler just then (though I drink these dudes's beer all the time so I don't know why I felt like I was scamming them or something and I left my three emergency dollars as a tip), so that was awesome of them and man does cold beer taste good after one runs 16 miles in the sun. The two miles after that are a little bit jostly in the stomach though, I mean because of the CO2. I don't know how the Hash House Harriers people do it. So but when I got back I checked my work and I was happy that I had found all the little side streets and dead ends and had covered them, and as I was about to mark this neighborhood off as done, I saw this gaping, glaring section missing from one of the main thoroughfares through the neighborhood, which I guess I missed because Google Earth colors such majorer roads in as yellow instead of white. Whatever. That sucks, so today I made another ten mile trip out there to get that segment, and also to finish up Point Breeze North while I was at it because it sucks to make a long trip for just three blocks, even if I'm kinda beat.

The name of the game these days is making a serious concerted effort to finish off neighborhoods for good. I can typically finish off one or two neighborhoods each trip. You can see from the blackened areas which neighborhoods I've finished completely; relative to last time this number is greatly increased. 19 neighborhoods remain in the target area, so probably no more than 19 long trips left. I'm a little sad to be done with some of these places and to probably not have occasion to go back, but oh well. Exploring new places is better. Numerology:

Since the beginning of time, 476 distinct running events. (This includes everything, races, training, Pac Tomfoolery) Total time running: 11 days, 14h53m13s. Total distance run: 2020.096. Finally broke the 2 kilomile barrier!
Categories:  pac tom  favorites (10 comments — almost 7 years ago)   [ comment ]
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emacs lost-mode (07 Jun 2008 at 00:31)
Spoiler alert! This emacs mode contains spoilers for the TV show Lost (Season 2). (I always wanted to say that, heh heh.) It will also make no sense to anyone who hasn't seen the show or used emacs.

Now that Lost Season 4 is over, I know you need something to tide you over for 9 months or whatever until it comes back. Therefore please enjoy this emacs mode simulating the Swan station computer from Lost. The modeline countdown timer will follow you in every buffer, ticking down the seconds.

Countdown


When reaching the 4 minute mark, you can use the Swan computer and do what you gotta do:

Swan


If you don't do what you gotta do, then you might get some System Failure:

System Failure


System Failure used to kill emacs without saving your buffers, but I decided this was a bit too cruel. Now you can live with System Failure indefinitely, meaning that you can safely run lost-mode as part of your regular day-to-day emacs use. If you have emacs I recommend trying it yourself so you can see the animations (particularly the timer reset animation). Put

lost.el


in a place where you like to store your emacs files (say, "/home/desmond/elisp") and then add

(load "/home/desmond/elisp/lost.el")


to your .emacs file (or the equivalent for your platform; don't forget to escape backslashes on win32). The mode is then activated on startup and cannot be disabled.
Categories:  favorites  hacks (18 comments — almost 6 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Inverse Mutton-chops! (18 Apr 2008 at 23:15)
Inverse mutton chops


Behold, inverse mutton chops. (Or would you call these reverse sideburns or something?) I always wanted to try this, so when there was a 3-week beard contest I decided to go for it. I didn't win, but it got a lot of good feedback. Maybe if there were a category for lengthiest beard? This ironic "GQ Cover" glossy is courtesy of Mike.

I'm not quite comfortable looking this stupid in person in front of people I don't know; I wore a hat when I was outside today, even though it was like 80°. So, they are gone now. The regular beard part is still on, since I'm past the itchy phase and I'm not sure what to do with it yet. Maybe you have a suggestion.
Category:  favorites (21 comments — 11 months ago)   [ comment ]
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Open letters (18 Feb 2008 at 17:23)
Do you guys know what open letters are? I don't mean like a piece of post that you've unsealed, or typographical glyphs with holes in them like the vowels 'e' and 'o', I mean like when someone writes a complaining letter to a company or politician but instead of sending it postally (obviously it would end up in the comment box incinerator anyway) he posts it on his blog, like as if a company or politician has ever thought, oh, I gotta go check my open-mailbox by searching the whole internet for letters that happen to be addressed to me. This is I guess because posting complaints in letter form rather than just in lj-whine style gives them automatic gravitas and posterity, for just the small price of having to write "Dear such-and-so" and "very truly yours" and if for some strange-ass reason you compose your blog posts in Microsoft Word then some dog jumps out of like nowhere and goes wtf dude are you trying to write a letter? And now you have two open letters to write. Anyway I find this phenomenon amusing and so today is Open Letter day on Tom 7 Radar.

Dear someone that makes shaving razors,
How come you think all dudes want to have close shaves that make their faces feel like a baby's smooth bottom? What if grizzled hard-style guys like the hombres in Lost or pretty much any movie with guns or horses (except if it's a unicorn horse or animated) want to freshen up a bit and they want to do it with a new store-bought razor and not some rusty old thing that they've been saving for a special occasion? What kinda extra rough shave offering do you have for these men?
Bet you didn't think of that but now you did,
Tom


Dear assholes who think that cars are supposed to have the right of way through crosswalks with active walk signals, especially in the rain or snow but also any time, even just for thinking that and not merely when you are actually doing it,
You are assholes.
From,
Tom


Dear dogs,
If I had to pick one thing about you (in general) that is my favorite, it would be the eagerness. If I had to pick one thing that is my least favorite, it would be all the pooping.
Try using a toilet,
Tom


People whose job it is to write on hand lotion and soap packaging,
I hereby forbid you from using "science" words or mathematical symbols. Examples of things now disallowed: "With amino proteins!" and "Vitamin E + Jojoba oil = moisture"
From,
Tom


Dear Thinsulate Company,
Sometimes when I put on black gloves it makes me feel like a murderer.
Love you forever,
Tom


What is wrong with you?
Extremely truly yours,
Tom
Category:  favorites (15 comments — 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Harris Grill catches fire (12 Aug 2007 at 00:49)
Harris Grill catches fire
1200×800 version
I used to think that I had some kind of special connection to Harris Grill because I ordered the very last lentil burger that they ever served. I've been going there ever since moving to Shadyside six years ago (then it was originally under a different owner and I like the second incarnation better, although they should not have discontinued the lentil burger!). But now I have a new special connection: I was eating there when it burned down this evening. Cortney and I were getting dinner and beer to celebrate her returning safely from DC and me recovering the 7th Pure Heart in Super Paper Mario, and we were just finishing up our beers like so many other pleasant trips to Harris, when one of the staffers came upstairs and said, "We have to evacuate! The side of the building is on fire!" I've been in buildings before when they were "on fire" so I didn't think this was a huge deal, but on the way down the stairs I could feel the heat and see the flames through the ice brick glass window... only a few feet from us. Clearly scare quotes were not warranted. Everyone got out fine before the fire really started to get out of control and shooting flaming debris and stuff (props to the Harris Staff for a safe and efficient exit). Right under the side of the building that was on fire is the parking lot, so a bunch of people (somewhat crazily, in my opinion) were getting in their cars and getting them the hell out of there, hitting each other a little bit, as people were evacuating and other people in the various bars in that area were emerging with beer in hand to take a gander. I thought it took a long time for the fire department to arrive, especially since there's a fire station only about two blocks away. But a lot of fire trucks and fire fighters did come. We were watching the licking flames crawl up the side of the building and devour its wooden (!) fire escape, but then there was some kind of hissing sound and someone declared that it was a gas leak, which even though I did not particularly believe this tattooed nose-pierced authority, I still thought it was probably safer to not be standing merely on the other side of the street as if two empty lanes could protect us from an explosion, so we moved a bit further out until the FD got the fire under control. I grabbed my camera from my house and took the above shot of firepeople climing the fireladder. (Click for a much larger version.) You can see the damaged ice brick window I was talking about; inside that burned door where the oxygen tank guy is, is the second floor where we were seated. The Great Divide Hercules Double IPA is a good beer, by the way. I didn't get any pictures of the licking flames but if there is some site where you can search people's shitty cell phone camera pictures, just search that because there were several hundred bargoers around who couldn't stop triggering their fake shutter noises.

Of course it's too soon to know if they'll be able to reopen the restaurant any time soon, but a 3-alarm fire is pretty serious, so Shadyside will probably have to (again) live without one of its gems for a while. Sorry to see you go, Harris!
Categories:  popular  momentous  favorites (24 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Song of the Month, June 2007 = So Begins Our Alabee (09 Jul 2007 at 17:02)
All my websites were down this morning while I updated the arbitrary unique number that identifies my computer on the internet. I think they should be working now, but since I haven't changed that in 6 years there might be some problems still. Let me know if so. Also Song of the Month:

 clip 'n save
This months's song of the month is So Begins Our Alabee by of Montreal. I got both Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and The Sunlandic Twins at the same time so I can't really tell them apart, but this is a Sunlandic tune.

Back in college I listened to Of Montreal a little bit and played them on WRCT but mainly as a kind of methadone treatment while we waited for other mainline artists like Neutral Milk Hotel (never came) and The Apples in Stereo (maybe not a monotonic plummet but certainly Cauchy) and The Olivia Tremor Control (likewise implosion) releases or even stuff like Belle and Sebastian that I always associate with Elephant 6 even though they are like not even distant cousins.

And sometimes I have this sad thought that some band that I own one of their CDs and they are moderately interesting that I once saw unenthusiastically open for some other mildly successful indie band, that this band is so low on my radar it is almost undetectably low, like when top guns fly their jets below the radar to avoid detection, but here's it's because their wings are too small or something like that, not because they are deliberately dodging the radio waves. That this band is borne out of the absence of music, the raw embarrassment that mostly empty record store shelves would feel if they only had the discs from the bands. And the sad thought is not that B-movies and B-bands and B-sides exist but that probably some of the people in these bands think that their bands are not weekend side projects but actually really super, that they have written some really standout original pop tunes and are just working their way to the top and wondering if maybe they should only have started their band's name with A or 0-9 or Zyzzyvas for the minor abecedarian advantage bestowed for such early or late placement in otherwise arbitrary orderings. Like that they take themselves far seriouslier than their CMJ ranking justifies. This is sad to me, sadder even than when a formerly great band starts Cauchying to 0.

So Of Montreal was a shoe-in for this month's song of the month artist since I used to kind of think that this band maybe should have changed its name to Zyzzyvas but have they made a turn for the A-list. (Thanks to jaked1 for making me listen. I responded to his e-mail: "dude these are some fucked up motherfuckers") Both of these albums are filled with great songs, and as I write this "Alabee" is my current favorite, but other highlights include Forecast Fascist Future, The Party's Crashing Us, Requiem for O.M.M.2, Suffer for Fashion, Cato as a Pun, etc. The width of their sound is mind blowing. It's clear Kevin Barnes (that's the pilot of this jet craft) is kind of a messed up insane genius, but in the recording asylum is the perfect place for such people. Don't stop!
Categories:  favorites  song of the month (19 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Free Hotel Wireless (27 Jun 2007 at 19:25)
Hey I made it! I have a little chill time so let me tell you some travel tips and an in-flight movie review.

Travel tip #1: Since basically all US airlines are part of the same government-bailout conglomerate—we might call it the FAA—sometimes when you're supposedly flying on one airline (the dudes you bought your ticket from) you're really flying on another. It is important for a variety of reasons to understand this fiction. One reason, this is tip #1, is that if you get to the airport and there's a 999999-bajillion km (that's kiloman, here man meaning man, woman, or child) line for the United checkin counter at 6:45am, then you should instead go to the US Airways desk because that's which airline you're really flying and they have a much shorter line and if you waited in the United line you might have been sent over there when you finally got to the front anyway. (This last thing is especially true for connections with international airlines.) Don't be a chump: If it says "X Airlines flight 1234 Operated by Y," then behave as if you're flying Y Airlines. Tip successfully employed!

Mini-review: I was watching Lost re-runs on my laptop so I missed the first 3/4 of it, but do you ever get a phrase stuck in your head like you sometimes get a song stuck in your head, repeating? Because when I was watching the last 1/4 of this movie The Astronaut Farmer I had a Spanish-language phrase running through my head and that was muy idiota. Wow, maybe I just missed out on the continuity in that film because they cut out some important not-family-safe scenes or because I missed subtle dialogue in the right stereo channel, unable to reach me in my airplane-incompatible headphones, but damn what a dumb film. Synopsis. Billy-Bob Thorton is a farmer (also his name is Farmer, making the title of the film a clever double entendre) who wants to go into space so he builds a rocket ship in his farm. Then he shoots off into space, with his family being like mission control. Success! There's a montage of the other farmers in his village and some local policemen looking off into space, slapping their thighs with their cowboy hats and mouthing, "Well I'll be!", I am not exaggerating at all here. BUT THEN SOMETHING GOES TERRIBLY WRONG... a nearby satellite causes his radio to fail and he can't talk to his family. Can you hear me, Major Tom? And how is this crisis resolved? He sees his wedding ring somehow floating around in the space cabin, so he takes his space glove off (the whole time he is wearing a bubble-head space suit, but I guess it is just for fashion or something) and puts the ring on. Then he hits the control panel and he can communicate with mission control again. Right? It's a Power Ring. Why does he need to communicate with mission control? So his son can tell him the "coordinates" for his farm, because he couldn't have just written down the coordinates of his farm before he left for space with his Radio Shack POS radio. What the? Then they get pizza and that is the end of the movie.

Travel tip #2: This is some kind of weird nom de net hotel that I booked online where their phone number doesn't work and they aren't in the yellow pages, so I have to find another hotel with a very similar phone number and address, because although they say they have a complementary shuttle in the online info, the bus drivers tell me that these dudes do not have a shuttle. Sorry, this should be in the 2nd person because it is a travel tip. The bus drivers told you that these dudes do not have a shuttle. Anyway, so you finally find the hotel where you are actually booked and they call you a complementary taxi and ask what airline you flew, and you say "United or US Air"—you've already screwed up! Because those are different parts of the SFO. You need to be on top of your shit and apply travel tip #1 proactively because the hotel and cab are not going to be on top of your shit even though this is like their business. You are waiting in the wrong place where you were told to go for like 45 minutes, and keep seeing your cab drive by and you wave at him but he is like, "wrong place, dude!" but eventually relents and on the ride you kinda wonder if you're the weakest link in this game show, but then when he eventually drops you off at the wrong hotel and tries to explain to the understanding-faced but obviously context-lacking concierge why you're so late because miscommunications etc., you can be pretty sure it's not you.
Category:  favorites (6 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK'd (02 Apr 2007 at 14:43)
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.

My papers were the utterly nonsensical "Generalized Super Mario Bros. is NP-Complete" (by Vargomax V. Vargomax), the one-joke "Level-of-Detail Typesetting of Academic Publications" and the entirely too much effort "Wikiplia: The Free Programming Language that Anyone Can Edit") (winner of the "Freedom to Receive Awards" award at SIGBOVIK).

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.
Categories:  hacks  favorites  video  talks  sigbovik (29 comments — 5 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Back from Germany! (03 Feb 2007 at 00:26)
Hello everyone. I am writing this post 37,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane. Last time that I was in this location the in-flight entertainment—which was a very slowly moving low resolution map that showed our progress and a few interesting and slowly changing facts about our autopilot altitude and velocity—indicated that the oudoor air temperature was a soul splintering -95° F. To imagine this temperature, first begin relaxing your mental self on the beach with basically no clothes on except for a mental bikini bottom or whatever you wear on the beach in your sexy mental self-image. Hey, toasty. Now go from 95° down to 0°F, which is 32 degrees below freezing. You aren't allowed to put any clothes on now in your imagination. That's cheating. At 32 degrees below freezing you can do stuff like pick up bananas that have fallen on the beach and hammer nails into blocks of wood with them. Quite a difference right? Now take that difference and repeat it: -95° is to 0°, naturally, what 0° is to 95° in terms of chilliness. I don't know what other kinds of things freeze enough to hammer nails into blocks of wood with at that kind of temperature, but I'm sure it includes ocean water, and anyway you've already hammered in all the nails with all the bananas, so there goes your nice imaginary tropical vacation. Plus you're nearly naked, heh heh!

Wow, gee, enough about that. This conference was good, I think, better than your average conference. I often hear from my academic advisors that the real action at a conference is not at the talks, but "in the corridors," which I think is true (at least it definitely is once you've established yourself as a researcher that people might kind of want to talk to). This meeting, which was not a publication venue so the focus was not really on talks, and also we were isolated in the middle of Nowhere, Saarland so there was basically nothing to do but go down to the wine cellar of the castle and drink and talk about various research ideas. Plus my whole entire stay including all my meals was only like €200. Danke Schön, German government!

I was happy about how receptive people were to the ideas in my thesis work. It's possible that we had almost everyone in the world who would be interested in the room, so maybe in an absolute sense that's indistinguishible from complete disinterest, but it was surely enough enthusiasm to populate a thesis defense oral. There also was a nice sense of coherence among the people doing research in this area: More groups than I thought are building "tierless" web programming languages that compile to JavaScript, and I think that they are grappling with some of the exact same issues I am, and that I have relevant and elegant type theoretic solutions to some of those problems. Hooray. I also gave a post-prandial reprise of my ICFP Programming Contest talk (by request).

Can you tell this flight is boring? I've now killed about 15 minutes out of 521.

There is literally only one thing to do in the Dagstuhl environs, which is to go to the ruins of the original Castle Dagstuhl from whatever hundred years ago. This activity takes about ten minutes. I even ran through essentially the entire town of Wadern to verify. So on Wednesday we took an excursion to Trier, the oldest city in Germany. It dates back to the year -20 or so. (If you like you can imagine how long that is by first getting naked on the beach, imagining how long ago the year 1010 was, etc.) There was a lot of cool stuff there, especially including the well preserved Roman architecture. Their ridiculously extravagant church also is where they keep Jesus's purported tunic. Carbon dating demonstrates the artifact was actually made around the same year that the chick that found it said she uncovered it (many hundred years ago) but still you'd think the thing was Ben Roethlisberger's jersey by the way they protect it: It's locked inside an air-conditioned glass case, which itself is sealed in a larger wooden box, that box inside a display case that is inside a small room that you can only just see into through a small metal gate all of which is at essentially the crux of the apse of the ridiculously extravagant church in the center of the city, and they've only taken it out 3 times in the entire 20th century. Well, whatever, I saw fake Jeeze Fleece in The Passion of the Christ so no big loss.

Trier is also home to Karl Marx's former house, which is now an eyeglass store. The store doesn't even take advantage of its previous owner's fame, by naming itself SocialEyes or something like that, it was just called "Martin Optik," I think. I was a little tempted to get the socialists to fix my snapped in half eyeglasses, but then maybe I wouldn't have been able to answer certain questions truthfully when returning through passport control in the US. But in Trier I also saw a store specializing in models, like model Flugzeugs und Bahns und dinosaurs, in which I finally found some superglue. This was a little tricky because even though I knew they'd have it, the bottle was labeled "Skin" not "Superglue" and the back label was covered up by the price tag, and then when I peeled it off it said "Cyana acryl." instead of "cyanoacrylate" but I was able to figure it out and buy it without the guy figuring out that I wasn't German even though he probably spoke English anyway. And then of course I've already broken them again on this plane trip.

Germans love board games. They are the kings of board games, and not stupid shit like Chutes und Ladders, simple but really deep board games especially of the strategic sort that computer scientists like. Let's say that naked Germans on a beach are to board games what naked Japanese on a beach are to video games. When I was there I spotted 6 Nimmt!, which is a game I've actually played at Schloß Spopix; in America it is imported as a game about hurricanes called Category 5 that, despite some fluff text, has nothing to do with hurricanes. (I didn't play because I don't actually think that game is that good, at least from the one time I played it, even though it's like a Spiel des Jahres winner I think.) I was hoping to spot a cool expansion pack or something for Settlers of Catan, which we have been playing a lot of recently, but no dice so to speak.

The thing that sucked about Trier was that when we got on the bus to go to the wine tasting/dinner that followed on our itinerary, the bus driver drove us all the way back to Dagstuhl and then was like oops, I forgot to bring you to the wine tasting place. So then we had to drive all the way back to Trier and we were really late and hangry and I didn't drink any wine anyway. But I guess that's not a thing about Trier, that's a thing about our bus driver. You suck, driver.

Oh, the last thing is probly not news to any of you blogosphere readers but I had a good chuckle at the news about how Boston thought that these lite-up ads for the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie were bombs. I don't know why they think that a bomb would light up, or have cartoon characters on it. In particular this clueless local report is very funny to watch, especially the part where they use a water cannon on the device to "render it safe."

That is all! In 6 or 7 hours I will be back in Pittsburgh and more or less ready to see you folks again (unless you are one of the people who is visiting my web-site after meeting me at Dagstuhl, in which case the opposite) and for some Superbowling, at least after a nice night's rest!
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