The bragging thread

One of my short stories in a contest is currently tied for first place!


I figured out how to Tetris several pieces of candy to maximize plastic egg content.


I nailed cooking today. Made some mean French Toast for breakfast and a stellar chicken parmesan for dinner.


completed a half-marathon today. This is the first time I’ve done one of this distance in, oh, maybe 8 years. Turned the last corner, saw the finish line, and actually got emotional, like ferklempt and all that. Crossed the finish, pulled over and tears welled up. Damn proud of myself for meeting 2 of 3 goals:

[ X ] don’t get hurt
[ X ] finish
[ ] stay on pace


That’s really awesome. WTG!


I’ve always been a puzzler and enjoy a game called 500 Rummy. You have to find 7-letter words by taking three or four letters selected in order horizontally from a particular suit, and three or four letters in any order selected vertically from a denomination. It doesn’t matter whether the vertical or horizontal piece starts the word, but the two choices can’t intersect. For instance IMMORAL uses the IMM in column 6 and the ORAL from the club row. The score would be 6+6+6+2+3+4+5=32

I’ve rarely gotten close to 500, and GAMES magazine advertised their best score was 846. Well for once in my life I wanted to match that or beat it. My solution wasn’t perfect, but I loaded over 34,000 words into excel and found a way to scan for all the possibilities manually in about two hours. In that time we matched 17 words, I missed 2 of theirs by simple human error, and found 6 that they did not. A few of my words weren’t terribly common (HUTMENT), but neither was one of theirs that I missed.

So in the end I scored 962 (could have been 1,047 or who knows maybe more). I’m sending it in to the editor and offering help in the future should they want to find even more words. I could put in more logic to simplify the task or possibly write a macro (or something in R) but it would take some doing and I no longer need to do it for my own satisfaction.

1 Like

While we’re on the subject of puzzle bragging, sometime between 2006-2011 I offered up the first “normal” crossword puzzle for Contingencies magazine. Here’s a screenshot of the crossword puzzle diagram I created in Excel:

The three long clues had an actuarial theme. Maybe someone remembers doing this.

20A: Undertaker’s furniture? (Mortality table)
41A: Happy New Year? (Annual statement)
59A: Trying to conceive? (Life expectancy)

I’ve got two more crosswords I created (I think I posted them on the previous AO) if anyone is interested just ask…

got an email today that an essay I wrote and submitted to a contest won 2nd place! (Not the Actuarial Speculative Fiction contest, I did not enter that this year. Haven’t entered since maybe 2014, either.) Out of 900+ entries, this felt really good! Will post a link to the thread when it’s live, will still be several months probably.


I decided a week ago that I need to finally learn how to do perfect shuffles. So far I’ve been practicing by trying then re-separating the cards and repeating. But if you do 8 perfect shuffles in a row, it restores the deck to its original order. Figured I’d run through that this morning, just got it done. It’s cool to watch the deck come back into order – it looks pretty chaotic after 5 shuffles but you can see that it’s going to work after 6.


So cool! I wish I could shuffle cards competently.

I’m wondering what makes 8 the right number of shuffles?

It’s been a while since I watched this, so I’m not sure if it answers your question (and I’m not able to watch it at the moment to check)


It’s essentially number theory. Number the cards from 0 to 51. When you do a perfect out-shuffle, cards 0 and 51 stay in place, and card x goes to 2x mod 51. So then the question becomes when does 51 divide (2^m)-1.

Some cool facts not in soyleche’s videos: the number of times you need to shuffle depends on the number of cards in your deck. 52 cards is a relative min in that it only takes 8, and is the only deck size between 32 and 64 that requires fewer than 10 perfect shuffles to restore the order. (Decks with 2^k cards require k perfect shuffles, and are optimal for their size).

But 52 cards is also a relative max, in that if you do “in shuffles” in which card #1 goes to spot #2, card #27 goes to spot #1, it takes 52 shuffles to restore the order. And the max # of shuffles to restore the order is the size of the deck. A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for 2n in-shuffles to be required to restore the order is that 2n+1 be prime. Primes for which it will work satisfy some condition I don’t remember. If GRH is true then infinitely many such primes exist, so it is essentially true, but still technically open (or at least used to be) as to whether or not infinitely many such primes exist.

The calculations as to what types of shuffles are needed for the demonstration in soyleche’s first video basically boil down to writing out k-1 in binary: to get the top card into spot 21, you look at the binary representation of 20 (1010) then do an in-shuffle (first 1), out-shuffle, in-shuffle, out-shuffle. By starting with the Ace of Spades in spot 2, they effectively did the first in-shuffle ahead of time.

Wow that’s very awesome, and cool math, and most Importantly you can cheat at poker now.

The precurser to the bridge video, about the guy playing minecraft, is one of my favorites of his videos. Mostly because of all of the unlikely things he does as he talks. He must have taken several dozen or more shots, but he pulls off making it look like the first time.

I just drove my neighbour and his cat to the nearby vet, since neighbour doesn’t have a car.

ETA; Taking my neighbour to the vet again this aft. I’m hoping kitteh is doing OK.


my creative nonfiction essay, “Blood Under My Fingernails”, won Second Place in Story Unlikely’s annual contest. It begins thusly:

"There is blood under my fingernails. There is blood, and bone, and sinew, and dura mater, and cilia, and small intestine, and large intestine, and cartilage, and retina, and myelin sheath, and muscle, and hair, and a myriad other remnants of what used to be a body.

There is blood under my fingernails, and in the cracks and crevices of my fingerprints, loops and whorls the color of dolphin underside. The light grey creates a false pattern, an impression that, it seems, I will see again if I am ever arrested, and this is the negative by which I will forever be identified.

There is blood under my fingernails, and at the back edges of them too, right in the valley between where the nails meet up with my skin. The blood has pooled there, along with the bone fragments and the skin fragments and the hair fragments. They are all that is left of a body which once ran half-marathons, which once did the long jump, which three times survived a C-section, which traveled to Guangzhou to welcome another child into our family."

Read the whole thing here:

And if you like what they do, why not sign up to Story Unlikely’s mailing list? You’ll get good writing once a month.

This essay came out in one big rush. What you see is, at most, 20 words different from the first draft. I think that’s what makes this so powerful, too; it’s not carefully sculpted through rounds and rounds of revisions, it’s just plain and raw and real. Warning; you’re going to learn my real name, and a bunch about me that you may not want to know. Good. Go for it. See you on the other side.


That is raw and powerful. I’m curious: when did you write it relative to the event you describe?

I’m sorry that you’ve lost your faith. I’m currently struggling with mine in the aftermath of my marriage ending, although certainly my experience was/is incredibly different from yours.

Congratulations on winning the contest.

something something shallow grave something something.