The Commuter Challenge

3 November 2015

The November 2015 Commuter Challenge

by CC @ 00:05

The Commuter Challenge is going to finish out the year much as it did last year, with a chance for each participant to plan out extended, personalized challenges.

For the first week of November, decide upon one or more personal creative projects that you intend to pursue for the rest of the 2015, and plan it out logistically. Your schedule should aim to have some sort of measureable goal that you can aim to achieve every 1-2 weeks until the end of December.

Submit your plan by November 9th. That schedule will then define your challenges for the rest of November and all of December. Then, at each milestone, you should submit a brief report of your progress and (if applicable) any adjustments that you wish to make to the original plan.

Note that it is not required that you actually achieve your goals in order to satisfy the challenge (beyond submitting the initial plan) — only that you make an effort to do so.

This Long Form Challenge was conceived with the hope that it will drive us to invest in projects that mesh with our existing creative activities.

The Results So Far

Brian Raiter

My goal is to put energy into one or more of my projects that I’ve already started but are not actively working on currently. The following is a list of tasks, each one probably about a week’s worth of work. There’s far more than two months of work listed: partly because I might have overestimated some of the tasks, but mainly because I wanted to give myself lots of choice. If one task turns out to be uninteresting, or leaves me feeling blocked, I am free to set it aside and switch to something else.

Ideally I will select a task at the start of each week, and at the end of each week I will review the work that was done, adjust expectations if necessary, and then decide on next week’s task. Lather, rinse, repeat. The goal is to complete seven or more tasks.

Writing tasks: Astronomical Distances essay

  • Write first draft of Moon chapter
  • Background research for Venus chapter
  • Write first draft of Venus chapter
  • Inkscape diagrams for Moon and/or Venus chapter
  • Revise first draft of Earth chapter

Programming tasks: miscellaneous ongoing projects

  • tworld: Review and integrate pending user-supplied code changes
  • tworld: Modify layout to permit testing of playback code change
  • cppp: Modify exptree to use mstrings instead of strings
  • cppp: Use mstrings to fix remaining known bugs in parsing
  • libredo: Add support for extra (non-compared) state data
  • brainjam: Change code to support higher-level move representation

(Note: finishing a task here includes publicly releasing the code.)

Programming tasks: linker research

  • Refresher reading-up on dynamic linker basics
  • Write a rough verbal description of the dynamic linking process
  • Outline what a linker does on the level of the ELF file

Miscellaneous tasks: in case nothing else appeals that week

  • Draw something
  • Write a code-golf program
  • Write a generalized structure for a text-processing program
  • Work on cover-generating script

Progress Reports

November 10-16

  • “libredo: Add support for extra (non-compared) state data”: DONE
    As I suspected, this was almost no work at all. I think I spent an hour on it total, including the time spent uploading the new version to my website. The main reason that I even mentioned it is that it’s a prerequisite for another task.
  • “cppp: Modify exptree to use mstrings instead of strings”
    To fill out the week, I took on some tasks that aren’t exactly on my list, but are adjacent to ones that are. So instead of working on the exptree code, I worked on integrating mstrings into the code that calls exptree. Mainly because it was easier. Whether I will wind up using that code or not remains to be seen.
  • “Linker Research”
    I also spent some time making a list of specific topics within linker research that I want to pursue, but nothing directly related to my list of tasks.

November 17-23

  • “cppp: Modify exptree to use mstrings instead of strings”
    I started work on this project, and instead wound up modifying everything else in cppp to use mstrings. exptree is the most complex bit of code in cppp, and so I’m most concerned about changing it. (The advantage of the rewrite work done this week is that the code is cleaner and easier to understand now. The disadvantage is that it puts new pressure to bring exptree up to the same standard of legibility, which is a much bigger task than what I intended to do.)

November 24-30

  • “Making a keyboard 1: Select and assemble working materials”: DONE
    For various reasons I’ve decided to change the list of tasks to introduce a new project. This project has several stages and I expect that it will take me the entirety of next month to finish it (although I hope to sneak in one or two of my original tasks as well). This project is to make a unique keyboard by rendering my own set of keyboard caps. I spent this week doing research, and ultimately decided that my best approach was to manually paint the keys, using enamel paint. (I looked at a few other options, such as inking transparent stickers to stick on the keys. None of them appeared to be very promising.) I purchased white enamel paint and some very tiny brushes — and, most importantly, a black keyboard with blank keycaps. I’ve test-painted a couple of keys and the results look good. The lines are a little bit thicker than what you normally see on a keycap, but the color is solid and opaque. (I’m not sure how I’m going to paint the keys like “PrtScr”, where the lettering is even thinner.)
Ryan Finholm

I am going to use this Long-Form Commuter Challenge to take care of some general maintenance and updates related to my band Jerkatorium:

  1. Update the Jerkatorium logo/image – the current image, if Jerkatorium can be said to have one, is my self-portrait from the January 2013 Commuter Challenge. That art was always a place-holder at best, and it has been outdated since April, when Chumpy became a regular collaborator/member of Jerkatorium. Chumpy has been half of Jerkatorium for seven months already, and having my face as the logo on Facebook is really inadequate. Timeline: various logo/image idea scans submitted approximately biweekly, with final semi-permanent logo/image art completed and in use by December 31.
  2. Continue to submit songs to Jerkatorium is not allowed to skip any two Song Fights in a row through December 31.
  3. Submit Song Fight cover art. At least one Song Fight cover art submission will be submitted per month (at least one in November and at least one in December) using “Jerkatorium” as the artist name.

Progress Report


  1. I have done some preliminary work (i.e. obtaining a photo from Chumpy, which involved more effort on his part than mine) on the image, and played around with fonts for the logo. I messed around with trying to create a vaguely off-kilter text effect by using a mixture of capitalized letters and lowercase letters and then trying my best to make everything the same size and thickness by changing the font size and bolding/unbolding text as applicable. Example: take JeRKaTORIUm, make the JRKTORIU bold, and increase the font size of each of the lowercase letters (E, A, & M) until they match the height of the uppercase ones. Turns out it’s a little quirky depending on the font you choose, but not amazing. I’ll continue trying to brainstorm and scribble out other options.
  2. We skipped the first Song Fight during this Commuter Challenge period, but we are submitting to the second Song Fight (“The War On” is the assigned title), and plan to submit as many as possible through the end of the year. So far, it looks like this goal is being met.
  3. I submitted art for the “The War On” fight. It isn’t amazing, and the reference is probably lost on anyone under 50, but I submitted something so I am up to date on goal #3 too.

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