The earliest memory I have of ‘programming’ is in the early/mid 90s when my father brought home a computer from work. We could play games on it … so of course I took the spreadsheet program he used (LOTUS 123, did I date myself with that?) and tried to modify it to print out a helpful message for him. It … halfway worked? At least I could undo it so he could get back to work…

After that, I picked up programming for real in QBASIC (I still have a few of those programs lying around), got my own (junky) Linux desktop from my cousin, tried to learn VBasic (without a Windows machine), and eventually made it to high school… In college, I studied computer science and mathematics, mostly programming in Java/.NET, although with a bit of everything in the mix. A few of my oldest programming posts on this blog are from that time.

After that, on to grad school! Originally, I was going to study computational linguistics, but that fell through. Then programming languages (the school’s specialty). And finally I ended up studying censorship and computer security. That’s about where I am today!

But really, I still have a habit of doing a little bit of everything. Whatever seems interesting at the time!

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Solving Sokobond

Another solver that I’ve been working on, after A Good Snowman Is Hard To … Solve?. This time, we have Sokobond! It’s a Sokobon… but with chemical bonds! Yeah, that’s a really good title.

The basic idea is you have a field of elements with (chemical accurate) free electrons):

A basic level

Here we have 4 hydrogens (1 bond each) and a carbon (4 bonds). It should seem pretty obvious that the carbon should end up with a hydrogen on each end. The one last bit of interest: the element with the dashed border is the one we actually control, that will never change.

This eventually gets more complicated, adding:

  • Modifiers that are placed on the map between squares:
    • One that strengthens bonds, turning a single bond into double into triple
    • One that weakens bonds, turning triple to double to single or breaking single bonds
    • One that rotates bonds as you move by it
  • More elements, eventually hydrogen (1), oxygen (2), nitrogen (3), carbon (4), and helium (0)
  • Solutions that require forming multiple elements at the same time

It’s a pretty neat puzzle game with 144 levels of increasing difficulty. Perfect to solve.


A Good Snowman Is Hard To ... Solve?

I enjoy puzzle games. I especially enjoy letting computers solve them for me 😄. Once upon a time, I set up a framework for solving random things. Let’s solve some more.

Today: A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

It’s a Sokoban about making snowmen! You can push snowballs of three sizes around, collecting snow if you roll over it. You can push smaller snowballs onto bigger ones, stacking them. Or back off, in order to get around one another.

And that’s really it.

There are some interesting twists (multiple snowmen, the ability to leave and re-enter levels, and even a whole second ‘hard mode’), but at a basic level, it’s just pushing.


Infinite Craft Bot

You’ve probably seen’s Infinite Craft game somewhere on the internet. If not, in a nutshell:

  • You start with 4 blocks: Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind.
  • You can combine any two blocks, for example:
    • Earth + Water = Plant
    • Plant + Fire = Smoke
    • Smoke + Smoke = Cloud

That’s… pretty much it, from a gameplay perspective. There’s not really any goal, other than what you set yourself (try to make Cthulhu!). Although if you manage to find something no one has ever made before, you get a neat little note for it!

So wait, what do I mean by ‘something no one has ever seen before’?

Well, if two elements have ever been combined by anyone before, you get a cached response. Barring resets of the game (no idea if / how often this has happened, but I assume it has), if A + B = C for you, A + B = C for everyone.

And here’s the fun part: if you find a combination no one has ever found before: will send the combination out to an LLM to generate the new answer. The specific prompt isn’t public (so far as I know), but essentially what that means is that you have a basically infinite crafting tree1!

So of course seeing something like this I want to automate it. 😄


AoC 2023 Day 22: Block Dropinator

Source: Day 22: Sand Slabs

Full solution for today (spoilers!)

Part 1

Given a series of 3D blocks, allow them to fall until the simulation is stable. Any cube of a block is sufficient to support another block, ignore rotations etc.

How many blocks are not the sole supporter for any other block?


AoC 2023 Day 20: Flip-Flopinator

Source: Day 20: Pulse Propagation

Full solution for today (spoilers!)

Part 1

Simulate a virtual circuit with high and low pulses and four kinds of chips:

  • Broadcast - Re-transmit all pulses
  • Flip-flops - On a low pulse, toggle internal state; if it was on, send high; otherwise send low
  • Conjunction - Remember input from each attached module; if all inputs were high, send a low, otherwise send high
  • Output - Do nothing; just receive pulses

Count the product of low and high pulses sent after 1000 low inputs to broadcaster.