#104 - Creating Multimedia/XKCD Volume 0

Motto: Putting the "Multi" in "Multimedia"

This column is an exploration of all the different forms of multimedia I can create; it's also an experiment to do so in such a way that I tell all the stories I wanted to tell in this post. Everything in this post is completely original content created by yours truly (if you couldn't already tell by the terrible production value).

First off, I want to start with the podcast I made for this column:

[Podcast w/ homemade motiff]

I got Randall Munroe's book "XKCD Volume 0" for my birthday. It looks like this:

[Drawing (MS paint)]
[Text (computer)]
In this book, there is a selection of the first 600 comics. Rather unexpectedly (for those people that don't read the description of the book, namely, people like me) there are doodles, notes, and puzzles in the margins.

Randall Munroe is clever, smart, and, worst of all, educated. With these puzzles, I feel as though I have been issued a challenge. You could say, the book blasted me in the face with a surprise challenge (as illustrated below).

[Animation (Photoshop)]

In the margins are mostly codes. Cryptic strings of text that don't have any context or explanation. Actual example:

What does THAT mean? I haven't figured it out yet.

Here are my ground rules:
1. I can't simply Google "What's the answer to _____"
2. Other than that, I can use any method I know or feel like.

The first code/puzzle I figured out was easy, but still very rewarding. I learned Braille (at least temporarily learned it). Here's what I ended up with after all was said and done:

[Text (hand)]

I stumbled across the NP-Complete problem from XKCD 287. The problem is well-stated in the comic, but essentially asks to find a combination of menu items that add up to a unique total cost:

Menu items are $2.15, $2.75, $3.35, $3.55, $4.20, and $5.80. The combined total is $15.05.

Figure out it.


I took a night to think about it. Then over a lunch break I wrote the following code (most of you can just skip this):

[Text (code)]

I found the solution and made a general framework for finding solutions of any similar Knapsack Problem. I wrote the code over lunch. This is what I looked like over lunch:

[Animation (Hand)]

By the way, $2.15x7 is $15.05. There's another solution, but you can figure that out for yourself.

Coding/algorithm practice is more than just a good mental exercise, it's fun. That's what makes me excited for this - here's me being excited about the book:

[Drawing (tracing really)]

It even inspired me to write this:

Some people look at cars,
other folks watch TV.
Some listen to rock stars,
I read XKCD.

I do read XKCD. Every week, three times a week. Since I got the book, I read it even more. In fact, here's a pretty good way to summarize my day:

[Video w/ homemade music]

Here's a picture I took an then over-edited like a 11 year old who just found photoshop on his parent's computer:

[Photography and gross misuse of photoshop]

At some point, I may figure out what all of the codes mean. I've pictured that moment, and it looks like this:

[Drawing (cartoon really)]


Top 5: Tools Used to Create this Column
5. Pen & Paper
4. Google Scripts
3. Noteflight and Soundcloud
2. Photoshop (CS6)
1. Movie Studio Platinum (12)

“I never trust anyone who's more excited about success than about doing the thing they want to be successful at”
- Randall Munroe, in the alt text for XKCD 874 -
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