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NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS (30 Apr at 23:41)
I was hoping to have a few things to write about in this month, but the only thing I finished was this video for SIGBOVIK, right at the beginning:

NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS
NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS


There is also the paper which has some merits but I submitted that before actually finishing the project, so I think the video is the definitive version. Either way this one is really aimed at trolling computer scientists, and so may be impenetrable if you don't have the background; sorry about that!

Allergies and various things have got me down recently but it's also getting nice out, which should provide a burst of energy!! This weekend is the Marathon in Pittsburgh, which I intend to run. No costume plans but sometimes I get last minute inspiration / compulsion. Feel free to taunt me with your ideas.
Categories:  hacks  video  sigbovik (4 comments — almost 7 months ago)   [ comment ]
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CHESSBOVIK (31 Mar at 21:49)
Well, here we are on the eve of SIGBOVIK 2019. I'm in the midst of a long day of video-making for one of my projects, but I can get 2 for the price of 5 by posting now about four of my papers. This year I've been on a chess kick, which I think I've successfully gotten out of my system by writing all these (previous posts alluded to there being five, but one of them didn't really go anywhere and/or just became part of the other(s)). They are sort of intertwined:

Survival in chessland is about how to stay alive if you are being a chesspiece to the death

Color- and piece-blind chess is about, among other things, playing chess without being able to tell what the pieces are (only where they are)

Elo World, a framework for benchmarking weak chess engines is about exploring the full spectrum of computer chess play

CVE-2018-90017117 #KingMe is just a short joke, but based on a true story


My last paper is on a different (maybe even weirder?) topic, and I'm putting together a video for it now, so I should be uploading that tomorrow some time. It's been a bit rough going, though, since I replaced my computer a few months ago and forgot that I hadn't actually set stuff up for this kind of work; I'm experiencing small problems like custom key commands aren't set, and bigger problems like audio drivers acting crazy. Looks like I will be able to finish with some vacation time, at least.


Speaking of vacation, this month we also went to Belize, which was pretty cool. The highlight for me was swimming/scrambling 1km into a cave ("Actun Tunichil Muknal") to access an approximately 1000 year-old Mayan site where they performed human sacrifices; it's remarkable because almost all of the artifacts are still in situ, including a number of calcified human skeletons. Was pretty wild. I got some good running done, found some New Haven-style pizza (!?), and wrote papers about chess (?!).
Categories:  sigbovik  hacks (3 comments — almost 8 months ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2018 (31 Mar 2018 at 22:39)
Hi team,

Thursday was SIGBOVIK 2018, held on April -2, the earliest it has ever occurred, due to various holidays and weekends. I don't have any grand project this time, but I did write one paper and coauthor another. The latter was with the SIGBOVIK elder Jim McCann (and was mostly his work); it's The fluint8 Software Integer Library for processors that only have floating point instructions. My other paper was a basically real (but not that rigorous) analysis of a huge database of academic papers to demonstrate that authors with alphabetically earlier names get more citations. That one's called Academic Advancement Advice: Author Articles as A. A.. It also contains some other related study, like the title words most and least likely to get you cited. I wish I had finished some more things for the conference, but on the other hand it is nice that it has so much independent momentum!

My neck has been getting better so I've been doing some running and physical-universe projects, which are not too interesting to describe here. But I have also some fun stuff underway, in particular for two speaking engagements in Seattle in May: PoCSci which is like UW's version of SIGBOVIK, and Deconstruct which is a more serious—if still tolerant/encouraging of weird stuff—event. The project is going well so far but it's a bit stressful, since you never really know if it will even be possible until you're knee deep in it, you know?
Category:  sigbovik (5 comments — almost 12 months ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2017: ABC (31 Mar 2017 at 12:34)
Hello my bloggies! I back-dated this post because even though I was all set up to post about my SIGBOVIK accomplishments, which this time conveniently occurred in the month of March, I then celebrated SIGBOVIK so thoroughly as to go to bed without actually posting here.

This year's invention is a strange artifact; if you want to experience it with fewest spoilers and have some time, then check out the paper version. I also put together a youtube video, since I like doing that:

SIGBOVIK 2017: Compiling C to printable x86, to make an executable research paper, by tom7
Click for nerd-talkin'


Despite the possibly misleading thumbnail, the video is mostly live-action, as I it after a popular YouTube series called Numberphile. The project doesn't lend itself too well to video, so my feelings won't be hurt if you don't sit through this one. :) I did my best to make the ideas and puzzles fun for people that don't have deep knowledge of this stuff but are interested.

SIGBOVIK was also live-streamed, so for the first time we have a mediocre recording of all the talks if you want to tune in after the fact too. My talk's at 1:22:00, and it's more bite-sized than the above.

Also, I must say: The conference this year was excellent, perhaps the best ever. The conference hall was packed; the overall quality of work was very high; the proceedings is thick with really interesting stuff (interspersed with the requisite juvenilia), and the talks were well-prepared and didn't drag on, thanks partly to the new timer system. It's pretty crazy how this conference has a life of its own now; almost nobody from the original group is organizing or even writing papers for it. We may even be getting to the point where we have to be selective about what we print..???
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik  video (17 comments — a year ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2016: Snacks, 3D Zelda (02 Apr 2016 at 12:57)
Sup team! Yesterday was SIGBOVIK 2016, and as usual I had some entries that were more work than warranted by a joke conference.

The minor work was Reordering the Snacks is Effective and Just, which concerns an operational and ethical question in office snack behavior. Probably not worth it unless you go for the deep cuts.

The thing I poured a month into is The glEnd() of Zelda, which is a hack to automatically emulate NES games in 3D. I spent a lot of time crafting a video demonstration and explanation with my typical non-SAG "acting", which even seems to go over well with non-nerds:

Click here for Automated 3D NES
Click here for Automated 3D NES


I sort of ran out of time on this one, so I hope to have some more refinements to the code and to then post a download in a more user-friendly form. But you know how these things go!
Categories:  sigbovik  hacks  video (11 comments — almost 3 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Portmantout: A portmanteau of every English word (30 Apr 2015 at 22:59)
Oh, wow, that was dumb. I actually have at least three good posts saved up, but for some reason I thought I already posted in April. So I backdated this one. It's really May right this second. But it concerns April work:

Portmantout video!
Portmantout video!


This is a video I made for my little hack about "Portmantout". Portmanteau is a stringin'-together of two words (like caviar + armpit = caviarmpit), and Portmantout is when you do that for all of the words in English! I did the work and wrote the paper for SIGBOVIK but the video is part of my slow attempt to make an entertaining Youtube channel. It's a lot of work to put together these videos but I'm happy with how it came out!
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik  drawings  video (4 comments — almost 5 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2014! (13 Apr 2014 at 10:29)
Almost two weeks ago there was SIGBOVIK 2014, the 8th annual April Fool's academic conference at CMU. When I say April Fool's conference, it's not that it's a conference about April Fool's Day or something, rather, it takes place on A.F.D. and contains "research" that may or may not be real, and is usually whimsical.

This year I emceed, labcoat and all, and begin with a one-day-hack "SIGBOVIK Plays Twitch Plays Pokémon Plays SIGBOVIK", where I rigged up a website with a controller that looks like this:



(told you I did it on the morning of SIGBOVIK!) and internet people could click the buttons to vote in real time on what a Nintendo emulator running this weird Chinese pirate NES version of Pokémon would do:



although it was delayed 10 seconds due to streaming to twitch.tv, just like the real Twitch Plays Pokémon. But the "twist" here is that the software then reads some bytes out of Pokémon's RAM, and uses those to pose the line drawing of a person, the idea being that the current SIGBOVIK presenter must take on the pose indicated, thus completing the Circle of Life and "playing" SIGBOVIK. Even though my prerogative as emcee is technically limitless, almost nobody followed this decree. It might have had something to do with the fact that the pose changed three times a second, due to bad planning/tuning. Still, it was there projected on the wall, always haunting you:



Connoisseurs of weird pirate versions of Pokémon will notice that we made it into Professor Oak's laboratory to select our beast, which took hours of trying to time the ten-second delay correctly. We accidentally exited the lab before selecting a Poké-egg.


There were many fine ideas at the conference, some of which are collected in the SIGBOVIK 2014 proceedings. My papers this year are even more abstruse than usual. The first was "New results in k/n Power-Hours", a ten-page hangover that revisits the incorrect or nonsensical theories in our paper from 2012, "Algorithms for k/n Power-Hours". Both are about a generalized version of the popular drinking game, but only the latter was written while sober. The results here are completely accurate, studied at length with real software. The "joke" in this case may be a little edgy for SIGBOVIK, the idea being to oversolve some pointless problem and then not even present it in a way that's humorous. It has some cool-looking figures, though. That one won the "Most Deserving of Being Real Research" award. Second I contributed "What, if anything, is epsilon?", a more or less serious descriptive account of how programmers set the value of epsilon in their software (spoiler alert: they range over 300 orders of magnitude!), whose results are obscured by absurd choices in data visualization. Third was "It still seems black has hope in these extremely unfair variants of chess", wherein I combine chess with populist board games, ruining it, and then study strategies for avoiding domination as player 2, using computer game tree search.

I think I started 7 other SIGBOVIK papers that I didn't finish on time, obviously, but I'm keeping the dream alive.

Up next: I have an idea for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and if I simply apply myself to something useful for once, I should be able to put together the apparatus in time (three weeks). In two weeks, another trip to Zurich with a stop in Lugano. Also: Barn-based board games.
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik (8 comments — almost 6 years ago)   [ comment ]
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The adventures of learnfun and playfun, episode 3 (20 Jan 2014 at 12:11)
It took an awful long time to finish, but I finally posted the third in my series of videos about my software that learns to play Nintendo games:

The adventures of learnfun & playfun episode 3
The adventures of learnfun & playfun episode 3


This one doesn't have too much technical materials, as it's the exact same program playing a bunch more games: Color A Dinosaur, Cliffhanger, Pro Wrestling, Pinball, Mega Man 2, Gradius, Double Dare, Arkanoid. There are also some new results for Super Mario Bros. It's a bit lengthy, but I tried hard to keep it dense and filled with entertainment.

I'm currently working on different projects for SIGBOVIK this year, but I also have some more ideas for the NES AI stuff. All we need is more time!
Categories:  sigbovik  video games  video (31 comments — 3 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2012: The National Month Of Pushing Spacebar (31 Mar 2012 at 22:31)
SIGBOVIK was upon us once again and now it is off. This is CMU's annual satirical research conference, which pokes fun at academics and itself. The conference website has approximately "one nine" of reliability, and is currently down, but when it's up you can probably find this year's proceedings. The papers are no more than half the fun, though. Something else that's not quite half the fun is the conference event, which I emceed again this year. It was a good one, with lots of fresh contributors and a pretty full house and cake.

This year I contributed to the probably-could-work A Modest Proposal for the Purity of Programming, the probably-could-work-but-not-with-that-much-beer Algorithms for k/n Power Hours, the juvenile where is my pants ("play"), and my main submission, The National Month of Pushing Spacebar. If you read only one (or none) make it that one (or none). The paper describes a contest which you can partake in, taking par now (if now is within 30 days of posting), at the website national.month.of.pushing.spacebar.org. But start with the paper.
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik (2 comments — almost 8 months ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2011: What words ought to exist? (01 Apr 2011 at 23:06)
Today was SIGBOVIK 2011, the fifth one. This is my favorite CMU CS tradition; a fake conference thrown with real aplomb (carefully bound and printed proceedings, entertaining talks, product demonstrations, awards, promotion, budget and steering committees, paper management systems and reviews, etc.). People use it as both a venue for childish drivel and for deeply satirical but essentially real work that in my opinion is too good for actual conferences. I love it because of how it simultaneously scorches (for its pointless navel-gazing) and celebrates (for its pointless navel-gazing) academia.

I always participate. This year I was emcee and I did not have enough time to execute all of my ideas (do I ever?), but I did write two papers. The first was just the slapdash results of the thing I posted earlier, Who is the biggest douche in Skymall?. It's more fun to continue to play the on-line game than read the results, though I did add a douche-detecting image recognition "algorithm" to that paper, at least.

What I spent the most time on was my paper What words ought to exist?.

What words ought to exist?


I tried something different this year. I feel like the conference is filled with loads of satire and irony (which is great), but that the best way to celebrate what I feel is the SIGBOVIK spirit is to be off-puttingly impenetrable about where the work is even coming from. Like "Is this real or a joke? Why did you even do this? I don't understand" is the ideal reaction. So, controlling for SIGBOVIK tenor, this time my paper is a completely earnest and thorough attempt to answer an interesting philosophical question (titular). It starts with a maximalist approach, my variant of Scrabble called Scrallbe (where they can all be words), which is pictured above. It's like God mode for Scrabble. I dismiss this as too coarse and then look at a bunch of different methods for figuring out what words should exist, and justifying that mathematically. I tried to write it for the layperson, but I think my notion of layperson may be distorted. Read the paper to decide for yourself.

I won another award this year (keeping my perfect batting record!), this time for "Most frighteningly like real research," which I think is apt.

SIGBOVIK 2011
Categories:  talks  hacks  sigbovik (3 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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