C-c-c-Combo Breaker!

I made it!

After a misstep on the fourth day I managed to post one post every day, completing the rest of the streak! This post is scheduled to go out around the time my plane takes off.

I’m free!

I’d insert a Frozen gif here if I could find a good one, but I don’t like any of the ones I found and besides, copyright is an issue. So instead:

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

IMO2007.C6. In a mathematical competition some competitors are friends. Friendship is always mutual. Call a group of competitors a clique if each two of them are friends. (In particular, any group of fewer than two competitiors is a clique.) The number of members of a clique is called its size.

Given that, in this competition, the largest size of a clique is even, prove that the competitors can be arranged into two rooms such that the largest size of a clique contained in one room is the same as the largest size of a clique contained in the other room.

Author: Vasily Astakhov, Russia

If you remember where I first posted this to break a combo, you have an excellent memory and/or spend too much time stalking me. If you remember the context under which I posted this to break a combo, you have a better memory than I do.

Was my streak a success? On the bright side, I definitely generated lots of posts, many of which were radical departures from my old blogging habits:

I also had lots of fun conversations about my posts, such as:

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Okay, just one more post for the streak milking the stuff uncovered in my old hard drive, and then it’s over, I promise. Here is a silly three-button idle game I discovered, which I apparently made in 2010 when I was a bored eighth-grader and the most recent jQuery version was 1.4.x. Instead of enjoying a text wall, please enjoy trying to get 16,384 clicks in the non-warp version. (There’s no victory message or anything; it’s just a nice round number that I reached while writing this post. And yes, I know you can call JavaScript from your developer console, or edit the source or DOM. That’s cheating.)

And I realize this is short even for filler posts, so if you don’t want to play an idle game, here is a remix of numbers.bmp to stare at and feel inspired by. Or disgusted with, or indignant at. Your choice.

(To be clear, I made this remix just a few days ago.)


Old Tests (and a Mysterious New Student)

(Short streak post. And for the uninformed, I’m using Spivak pronouns for this post just because.)

Generally, when people I don’t already know through math competitions ask me or my parents about something like how to teach their intelligent child to make em really good at math, or even English or whatever, I am skeptical by default because there seem to be a lot of Taiwanese parents who have alarmingly rigid and largely baseless expectations or assumptions about what their children ought to be interested in and excel at.

You can lead a horse to water, and honestly I think you could find a way to force it to drink if you really wanted to, but you can’t make it enjoy the process of being force-fed. Um. Force-watered? Force-hydrated?

You can teach your child math and English, and you could make em ace all eir tests, but you probably can’t make em enjoy the test so much that e decides to create more diabolical versions of these tests to give to eir fictional characters in eir stories for fun!

These are all actual illustrations from the old stories I mentioned in part 2.5 of “More Fiction”. Stories I wrote in 2004. As a first-grader.

This is kind of horrifying.

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More Fiction (Part 2.5)

This is not Part 3. It’s just two things I thought of tacking on to part 2.

What can I say? Part 2s are easy blog post fodder; Part 2 appendixes are even easier.

  • One, there’s one other wall I run into often during those rare attempts when I get motivated enough to try to write a story: naming characters is hard. At least, it provides an excellent motivational roadblock whenever I even consider committing a story to paper, a point before I’ve actually written anything at which I think “maybe I should give up and go on Facebook instead” and proceed to do so. Aggh. And I think there’s more than one reason for this:

    • I have trouble coming up with names to some degree. Sure, it’s easy to browse BabyNames.com and look for choices, but a lot of the names there are really weird and contemplating them for every unimportant character kind of rips me out of the immersed mindset.
    • Reading great stories in English class and elsewhere may have gotten me feeling like every name ought to be a deep meaningful allusion, or at least pun fodder. I feel like I will regret it if I write a story and, a few months and/or chapters down the road, realize I missed a better name or the name I chose has some undesirable connotations in context or provides an atmosphere-ruining coincidence.
    • But I think the real kicker is simply that some part of me is terrified of the awkwardness of giving a character the same name as anybody I know, because then they might read the story and wonder if the character is somehow based on them. And too many of the names that I consider common enough to not lure readers off into looking for hidden meanings are used up that way. This is obviously worst if the character is an antagonist. But it seems just as awkward if the character is a protagonist in accord with everything I’ve written, i.e. a paper-thin character blatantly created for escapist purposes. I am already kind of terrified I might ever meet anybody with the same name as one of my mentally established characters even though I haven’t actually written anything about him. And there’s a well-established convention of not reusing a first name in a work, so this gets even harder with every work; I’m just as worried, what if somebody thinks this character is related to the other character in that story I wrote in second grade? Oh no!!

      It’s like not reusing variable names in a programming language where everything is in the same scope. Positively nightmarish.

      And I actually discovered some evidence this is a thing in my past: I found some stories I wrote in 2004. They are possibly the most extreme exemplification of Write What You Know imaginable: the main character, Michael, goes to school and makes friends. That’s all.

      Illustration courtesy Brian2004

      Illustration courtesy Brian2004

      I kind of want to share these stories, but fast-forward a few years and you’ll see that a classmate named Michael entered my grade and we stayed in the same grade until we graduated.

      Hi, Michael. You’re probably not reading this, but the character I created in 2004 is not in any way based on or inspired by you, especially not this image. And unlike later in this post where I name a character after myself, I’m not being sarcastic, really.

      See, this is awkward.

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Throwback Thursday Puzzles!

Wow, there are so many cool things in my old folder. I could probably create and schedule enough filler posts to make my streak last through my week-long trip and back. I guess I won’t, though, because I don’t want to dilute my textwall-draft brand more than necessary and there are a few text posts that I fully intend to post before leaving. Or at least one. Although on second thought, it’s possible they might actually not be as interesting as posts like this one about the adorable me from the past. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Youth has no age.” (Yes, I totally just went on BrainyQuote and searched for “youth”. Forgive me, please.) Oh well.

Today’s throwback theme is old puzzles! Particularly picture ones! In reverse chronological order by last modified time, because I said so! All the image puzzles are puzzlehunty in the sense that you’re supposed to end up with a single word or short phrase as your final answer.

art/hidd3n/p06pre2.png (2010/10/31)


A straightforward one to start. I have no idea what’s with the filename, though.

haxxor/purity2/logic.html (2010/10/10?)

My file hierarchy is really weird. I don’t think this time stamp is when I wrote the puzzle because it was part of a silly static site setup I created (but never actually put anywhere), and I probably edited and regenerated stuff like the breadcrumbs many times, but it’ll have to do.

This is also funny because the title of the HTML file is “Logic Puzzles” and the description starts, “These puzzles were made when I was really bored…”, but there’s only one puzzle.

Well, it’s better than an under construction page, I guess.

I’ll quote the entirety of the old instructions as I wrote them, even though they’re really verbose, since it’s easy to scroll past them:

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Mom dug up an old hard drive for me to find photos of my elementary-school self participating in the same math competition I’m presenting at in a week. I discovered a lot of other interesting old stuff there. So today’s filler post image for the streak is courtesy of Brian2003/03/23. I don’t think it means anything, but sorry, I really really need to work on that presentation.


To be clear, I didn’t actually upload the original .bmp file. The PNG format is older than I am, so I guess I just wasn’t well-informed enough in 2003 about which image format was best. The original BMP was 1,701,270 bytes and the .png file you see above is 39,596 bytes. Compression is amazing.

Translation Party

Just a short anecdote for the streak today. Hmm, I guess this developed beyond being just another filler post, which is good.

In addition to preparing my presentation, the other job I have to do for the math competition I’m attending in a week or so (not as a participant, okay?) is translating various guests’ speeches between English and Chinese.

The speeches’ length and formulaicness really get on my nerves, but then again my standards for speeches were skewed upward by Richard Forster’s speeches during the opening and closing ceremony of IOI 2014, but on the gripping hand I don’t think it’s that hard to at least try not to be formulaic and I really can’t see any effort on their part whatsoever. Off the top of my head, pretty much all the speeches tend to go like this:

  1. Welcome!
  2. Math is great!
  3. This competition is great!
  4. The city hosting this competition is great!
  5. The college hosting this competition is great!
  6. You contestants are great!
  7. Good luck!

Except each bullet point is a paragraph that lasts a minute.

(Ninja edit: Which is not to say they didn’t put any effort into their speeches at all, but that much of the effort seem misguided to me. I don’t see how anybody who has been in the audience for one of these speeches can overlook the same flaws in their own. Unless it’s like, at some point in the natural life cycle of the human brain, people spontaneously start enjoying these safe and repetitive speech topics instead of some earnest and maybe lighthearted advice and anecdotes and jokes? Like how people somehow start enjoying spicy stuff, or the bitter flavor of beer and wine, or writing teenage-angsty ranty posts complaining to nobody in particular like this one? Tough questions.)

Anyway. My mom actually does most of the translation but I am the grammar stickler post-processor and we work together on the hard parts. The second hardest things to translate are idioms. The hardest things to translate are quotes. It turns out that lots of people find translated quotes to Chinese and it can be incredibly difficult to reconstruct their English versions. Here is the quote that today’s story is about, which we were tasked with providing the English translation (or original) for and which the speech attributed to 克莱因 (trad.: 克萊因).

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