XKCD Comes to Dartmouth!


[ Silence ] >> Nicole: Good evening and welcome to XKCD Comes to Dartmouth. [ Cheering ] So, while planning this event over the past five months, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to tell many of you individually the good news about Randall’s visit. And every time I told someone that I was planning this event, I got a particular type of response. A response that, I think, shows the enthusiasm that pretty much this entire school has for XKCD. [Cheering] [Laughter] Exactly. So, in support of and in order to foster this enthusiasm, I’d like to share a few examples of those responses with you tonight. So, one time, I was having lunch with a group of engineers outside of Long Tuck Mall. And one young woman, upon hearing the news, got so excited that she actually screamed so loudly, that the sound reverberated all up and down the streets.

And what’s more, this occurred at the President’s cookout [laughter]. Another time, I was spontaneously hugged by someone I had just met. And another time, I was proposed to [laughter] by someone I had never met. I had to decline the proposal on the principle that, I just can’t accept marriage offers communicated by a Blitz. So, those are a few particular examples. But then, there are the rest of you. I have received so many emails saying, “I’m so excited about this event. Sign me up for the Blitz list. How can I help?” Now, recall that I said that this event has been five months in the planning. And trust me, it’s been worthwhile. But, on the other hand, it has soaked up time and energy, and sometimes, I start to feel a sense of my soul.

So, to everyone one of you who sent one of those emails and contributed that extra little life sustaining spark of enthusiasm. God bless you! You have no idea how much your contribution means. And, well, since I seem to be invoking God’s favor upon our supporters, I would like to thank our sponsors. As our posters say, probably more organizations than you even knew existed on campus. So, those organizations are the math department, the physics department, the computer science department, the Dean of College, the President’s office, COSO, [inaudible], Alpha Theta, the Dartmouth Mathematical Society, Creative Gaming Club, the Graduate Student Council, and the Art Council. Also, thank you… [ Applause ] That did take a little practice [laughter]. Also, thank you very much to all my wonderful volunteers, and especially Max Lipson [assumed spelling], Michael Diamond, and James Oakley.

[ Cheering ] But that’s enough about us. What about this fellow, Randall Munroe? Well, Randall Munroe graduated from Christopher Newport University with a degree in physics in 2006. He worked for a time at NASA, and now he manages my all-time favorite web comic from his home in Massachusetts. Now, I’ve done my research, and I realize that Randall has spoken at some prestigious institutions in the past. And these institutions have set up a sort of series of traditions associated with his visits. Therefore, I feel obligated to mention that, tomorrow at lunch, we too will have a cake shaped like the Internet. [Laughter] And also I have a few things to give you, if you’d like to come up here. Firstly, a lovely Dartmouth t-shirt. >> Randall Munroe: Well, thank you. [ Applause and Cheering ] >> Nicole: And also, Creative Gaming Club, which will be hosting our party tonight in Common Ground at 8 o’clock was [laughter] — it’s going to be some party — [laughter] was very eager to be remembered fondly by you, so they have donated no fewer than two t-shirts. >> Randall Munroe: Sweet, thank you [laughter].

>> Nicole: It says, “Get your nerd on”. >> Randall Munroe: Awesome. >> Nicole: And also, so, I got a t-shirt from some Asian-American student organization, so here you go [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: Awesome. [ Applause ] >> Nicole: I have no idea where it came from, but it looks like you won’t have to do laundry for a while [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: Awesome. >> Nicole: And one more… >> Randall Munroe: At least three more days. >> Nicole: …yeah. One more, perhaps uniquely Dartmouth-y offering. I have for you the Philosophy Journal. As a matter of fact, this issue came out only yesterday, and the theme is the Vienna Circle which is celebrating its centennial this year. >> Randall Munroe: Oh, really. >> Nicole: The Vienna Circle [laughter]. Well, Vienna Circle was a group of philosophers that met to discuss math and physics and related topics, so we thought it appropriate to put your web comic “Certainty” on page 63.

>> Randall Munroe: Oh, cool. Thank you [laughter]. >> Nicole: It’s there [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: Aw, thanks. >> Nicole: Although, as our editor-in-chief has said, the period of 1906 to 1910 was kind of a murky one for the Vienna Circle because it wasn’t really an official organization. So, we might as well as not be correct about this being the centennial, but in order to make sure we’re correct, we fixed Wikipedia. [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] I’m afraid I can’t claim to have made that up. And just one more thing before I hand over the podium. I mentioned traditions earlier, and when you checked into the Hanover Inn this afternoon, you found a surprise waiting for you. >> Randall Munroe: Yes, I did.

>> Nicole: I think you know what’s coming. So, does anyone have a playpen ball you’d like to give Randall? [ Laughter ] >> Throw them back to us! [ Laughter ] >> Nicole: Anymore? [Laughter] Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, Randall Munroe! [ Applause and Cheering ] >> Randall Munroe: [Laughter] So. I don’t wear a Tron costume… >> Yeah! >> Randall Munroe: …or a Guy Fawkes mask everywhere I go. I don’t use — I don’t use numbers in place of letters in, you know, normal conversation [laughter]. I didn’t steal your credit card or hack into your mainframe, and no, I don’t know what’s wrong with your computer. [Laughter] You know, I’d be happy to take a look. I have a blog. And that’s okay. There are — there are many other people like me. We have moderated comment threads instead of, you know, one-way press conferences. And your parents’ politicians wouldn’t stand 10 seconds in them.

We — I have friends from all across every time zone, different continents, and you know what, when we’re in charge, I’m going to be a lot less likely to vote to bomb somewhere when I know the next morning I’m going to wake up to upset messages from them on Facebook. [Laughter] And you know what, when someone tries to lie to me, I look it up on Snopes. Wikipedia is more useful than Britannica. John Stewart is better than the network anchors, and the <i>Perry Bible Fellowship</i> could kick the ass of any of its peers in the papers. [Cheering] My name is Randall. And I’m from the Internet. [ Applause ] >> What part? >> Randall Munroe: Well, I grew up in a little town on LiveJournal. [Laughter] I was actually on the first AOL Kids chat room in like 1993, I think — or 1994. >> ’92 [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: It was, I think, Cool Treehouse was the first one, and then.

And I know that because it was a much more innocent time because I remember typing 9/f and 10 — or 9/m and 10/m in response to ASL, which nowadays [laughter] gets you in some trouble. But, no, it’s a real pleasure to be here. It is a little bit — coming here, it’s a little bit saddened by the shadow cast by the recent death of Michael Crichton, the man who taught me to be pathologically afraid of raptors that can open doors. [Laughter] And it’s certainly sad, you know, to have lost such a fabulous author, but I feel like there’s some consolation in that, maybe at some point during his writing career, he was bitten by a mosquito. [Laughter] And maybe he’s not gone forever [laughter]. But, no, the raptor thing, I mean, just one of the many neuroses I developed as a kid. That sort of — it’s like OCD, except I swear I could stop if I wanted. That you know, stepping on certain floor tiles or having to walk consistently with regards to where your stride falls on the cracks.

I did remember there’s no particular rule. You just have to be consistent [laughter]. And things like when your — when I’m walking around, I would decide that I could only turn when I was touching something. So, if I wanted to get somewhere, I had to tack by hitting walls and bouncing in straight lines. [Laughter] And — and but, you know, and then sometimes, I would turn these ordinary things into superpowers. Like, for a while, I have — I actually had this idea that it would be a handy superpower to be Incredibly Patient Man [laughter]. Just have an inhuman amount of patience, and I actually successfully bluffed with this. There’ve been a couple times for me as you get something from a store. And they had just started to close and it’s right there in front of me, and I just went to pick it up, and they’re like, “No, sorry, not going to sell it to you.” And I’ll say, “But you’re there and, you know, cleaning up the shop.

You’re going to be there another hour and a half. Can you just sell it to me? I walked this whole way.” And, “No, sorry, come back.” And I’ll be like, “Okay. When do you re-open?” And they’ll say like, “8 o’clock tomorrow morning.” I’ll be like, “Okay.” And then, keep standing there. [Laughter] And the guy says, “8:00 tomorrow morning.” Turns away — and this has worked a couple of times — turns away and starts sweeping, sweeping. Gets down the aisle, turns back around, and sees me still standing there [laughter]. He’d say, “Is there a problem?” I’m like, “No. You said 8 o’clock, right?” Look at the watch [laughter]. And he’d just, because they can’t believe that a normal, mortal human. [Laughter] So, and every time that’s worked, they just stare for a moment, and they’re like, “Poor kid. Hold on, okay, I’ll go get it.

” [Laughter] You know [laughter]. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s always weird to come out and meet space and see this many people who actually read the comic. When I’m drawing it in my room, you know, I can just pretend. It’s going on the Internet, and then I’ll get, you know, comments on my blog, reviews. People will say nice things or mean things, but, you know, it doesn’t really matter. You know. It’s not real. But then and then, I see all these people, and, all of a sudden — uh-oh [laughter]. But, I don’t know, the feedback is always really interesting. Sometimes, I find that the — the negative reviews, you know, the negative comments about the comic more interesting. You know, I guess, and I don’t get too many of them, which is nice. But, when they do, at least they — sometimes they’re creative. Actually, one of the comments that I got recently was, “Randall Munroe is Joss Whedon, except he traded in his writing ability for the ability to memorize prime numbers.

” [Laughter] So, that kind of hurt, but, you know. No, it’s been, I guess, the one place that has been a little weird. I try to keep my actual real personal life out of the strip, and I don’t talk about dating and stuff. And it’s not even so much, you know, privacy for me, as it makes things pretty weird for anyone I’m seeing. When, for example, I draw a comic about a nasty fight and breakup. And then, the person I’m seeing starts getting calls from their friends that morning, saying, “Oh, God. I heard about it. Is that okay?” Or, “Are you okay? What happened? [Laughter] Did you really write over his boot sector?” [Laughter] But the other place that’s weird is in the actual, you know, the process of dating when you’re doing a comic like this. Which, the problem is, I didn’t really realize this, but everyone knows all my stories now. [Laughter] So, we’ll be dating, you know, like go on a walk down the beach or something like that, start talking. [Laughter] You know, and we’ll get the first three or four miles down, and you know, we’ll be talking and, you know, I’ll start to tell a story. Like, you know, “I always liked to say I liked to take long walks on the beach.

You know, really long walks.” And she’ll cut me off, like, “I know. I read your comic.” [Laughter] And then, I’ll get a story in return, and I won’t know it. And it’s even worse when it’s sort of like romantic talk, you know. Like, you know, “Oh, this is great. I just wish we could slow down the world here for a moment. And, you know, if we spun around, maybe we’d…” And she’ll be like, “That’s from your comic. [Laughter] How many other girls have you used that one on?” [Laughter] But this is actually my fourth time in New Hampshire in the past, maybe, you know, 120 hours. I was — I got tired of shrieking on sites like Reddit about politics. And with the election getting closer, I was like, I need to figure out where I could go to, you know, get some work done on this. To get out the vote type stuff. You know, I came to New Hampshire.

I actually called up the Obama offices and said, you know, “Is there anywhere, any offices, if you guys working to get out the vote. Is there anywhere I could go to help out? Where do you need people in New Hampshire the most?” Because I figured it’s kind of a swing state. And they said, “Well, where are you coming from?” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t have a real job. I can go wherever.” [Laughter] So, they sent me up to Conway, where I worked for a couple days. And, first of all, your state does not need that many mountains. [Laughter] But it’s been a lot of fun. We got a lot of interesting people asking questions about the race. The one that really stuck out in my mind, though, was the grizzled guy who showed up at the offices, late at night, when we were, you know, just finished calling people because it got too late.

And this guy shows up, knocks on the door. Sort of trench coat, completely indeterminate age, like, five week shadow. And he just sort of comes in, and he’s like, “What does your candidate think about guns?” [Laughter] And you know, we’re like, “Actually, neither of the candidates really are all that interested in, you know, gun control, the gun issue. We think there are more important things. They’re working on healthcare.” And all this. And he says, “I don’t care about any of that. They going to take my guns?” And then, you start to get a little bit nervous at that point because it’s one of those issues where I feel like, it’s not so much the — it’s a — there are a couple issues like this — where it’s not so much, you know, the issue. Like they might be completely right. It’s anyone who has — it’s like — there’s a lot of old scientific controversy, you know, race and IQ. And does it really exist, or scientist taught — do differences exist? Are scientists not talking about it? Are scientists talking about it? And it’s not so much that one position there is, you know, right or being stamped down or anything like that. It’s just, anyone who’s too interested in the issue frightens me.

[Laughter] And I feel the same way when someone shows up who, all they want to know about is guns. And whether or not we agree with them about guns. And they’re wearing the kind of coat that could conceal any number of guns. But it did strengthen my resolve to run for president in 2010 because those fuckers will never see that coming. I think I could win. I think, they really want to get out the youth vote, my platform would just be bring back the old Facebook. [ Cheering and Applause ] [Laughter] All right. Now, as I understand there are microphones somewhere around here, if we want to start — if anyone has a questions or topics they want to bring up. I usually find that’s the most interesting part of these, so sure.

So, anyone have any questions about XKCD, the Internet, blogs? >> A little while ago, you did a, like, competition with the New Yorker. Like a comic-off or something. How did that come to be? >> Randall Munroe: I actually just got the email, you know, from the New York comic blog that just said, “Hey, we do this thing periodically. Do you want to contribute to it?” And I, you know, looked at it and saw they’d go under review with Michael Showalter, who I really like, and I was, “Oh, that sounds cool.” And I looked at their drawings, and I was like, “Okay, I can do that.” And he sent the topics a couple days later I got around to it, and drew up a bunch of comics on his topics, sent them in. And then, he wrote a narrative, explaining how it was actually a duel. That I had met him in a supermarket. And there was all sorts of tension and tumbleweeds, and then a slapping with a glove. And, but it was a lot of fun. I’m not really sure who won that one. I think both of us got a lot of attention from the other groups that hadn’t heard of, you know — people who read XKCD hadn’t heard of the New Yorker.

And the people who read the New Yorker [laughter] hadn’t heard of anything that came out past 1970. But it was pretty neat. I’ve always liked the New Yorker’s comic strips. Sometimes, they could use a punch line, but that’s just me. You know. So, who else? Right in the middle — or right there, that works better. Yes, go ahead. >> Okay. When you see this whole room filled with people who read your comic, do you ever — when you’re writing down a new comic — does it ever cross your mind — my God, like, I control the opinions of, like, all these people in this age group. If I write about this, there might be, like, riots in the street or something. If I — people might actually try to clone Velociraptors. Does that ever cross your mind? >> Randall Munroe: It’s — well, its part of why, first of all, I try not to write about things that I really… [ Laughter ] .

..I really like. So, the first thing, of course, is I came in this room as I sized up and noticed, hey, all the doors shut. There are not a lot of large windows. The one that is up in the projection booth. I checked that beforehand, and it’s got a door that locks. But, it occurs to me that when the raptor’s in the room with you, that’s kind of a liability. [ Laughter ] I think I’m okay up here, although they’re astonishing jumpers. [ Conversation ] >> Randall Munroe: And I forget that there’s anyone else in the room. It’s just me and the raptor, making eye contact, staring. And then, from the side. Clever girl. [Laughter] This is going to be a problem. [ Laughter ] Come on. [ Laughter and Applause ] Actually, that reminds me, anyone catch the news story just a few days ago about the woman who was bitten by the fox? >> Yes. >> Randall Munroe: And she did, a jogger [laughter] — look, I heard from a friend of a friend who, you know, who made it up while they were reading Snopes.

It’s totally cool. No, who was — she was bitten on the arm by a fox — or she was bitten on the leg and then the arm. And decided she should probably keep the fox, so it could be tested for rabies. So, left it clinging to her arm, teeth sunk in, and jogged for a mile to her car where she ripped the fox off. And then wrapped it in a t-shirt and threw it in her trunk, which is where that idea comes from. Yes, wrapped in a sweater. But I think she gets in that category with the guy who cut his own arm off to get out of the rock slide. As people who get free beer at any bar they go to. [Laughter] So, I think we had a question — oh, yeah. >> I have a question. Is the classhole your alter ego? >> Randall Munroe: When I started doing the comic, I was thinking like, oh, I should make a whole cast of characters. And then, I was like, I don’t know how to write characters. But, then I was thinking like, okay, I’ll have a romantic, you know, one of the guys be the romantic guy, give him one name. And one of the guys be the nerdy guy and give him the other name. But then I was thinking, well, kind of the whole point of this is that they’re — like, nerds have awkward fumbling sex, too, you know.

And that needs, you know, that is all one person, you know. The nerdy guy and the whimsical guy, and then the so and so people. But then, now and then, there’s something I just wanted to say. That I just still wasn’t quite comfortable with making, you know, this character that everyone’s supposed to identify with, you know. And there’s just some joke that I want to make. And so then I’ll put the hat on the guy. [Laughter] So, I decided I was willing to break, just flip that one off. So, yeah that’s my total asshole alter ego. But, and then it’s been fun, it’s sort of developed just into its own thing. So, we had a question, inconveniently in the very middle here. I think literally the middle of the room. >> I already asked this via Blitz, but I was wondering if you’d marry me [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: Awe. The way she phrased it, I thought that you asked to marry her. >> Oh, yeah, I did. >> Randall Munroe: Yes, oh, okay [laughter]. >> She turned me down, so. [Laughter] I mean, not to say it like that.

>> Nicole: It was via Blitz. >> Randall Munroe: Well, so you’ve got one rejection that way, and then… >> Well, it is on Blitz. >> Randall Munroe: …yes, well, I feel like, so I feel like right now, there’s this chain. So, if I really want to complicate this further, Nicole, will you… [ Cheering and Applause ] >> Nicole: That wasn’t over Blitz, so… >> Is that a yes [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: Aw, a honeymoon to the blogosphere. [Laughter] So, let’s see, do we have — back up there. >> So, if I may ask, what’s going to happen with the relationship between the man in the hat and the girl, who’s his soul mate? >> Randall Munroe: Oh, nothing good. >> Oh, you can’t [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: I mean, they might turn out okay. Everyone around them, maybe not so much [laughter].

>> You dropped your pen. >> Randall Munroe: Oh, thank you. >> What kind of pen is it? >> Randall Munroe: The Faber-Castell Pitt pens. I actually use like the cheapest mechanical pencils that I have used ever since I was a kid, and then I got the art snob pens. And, I don’t know, I got really used to — it’s really nice, you can just draw, and it’s a single bold line. I draw all the comics on paper and scan them in. Even — it’s like the most low-tech operation for a tech comic. I’m one of the only comic’s people who still, like, bothers, who still hand-letters. I don’t really have a good reason I do it. I just feel like there should be some work somewhere. [Laughter] All right, so. All the way over there. >> I’m just curious if you have a favorite module in Python. >> Randall Munroe: You see, they actually added anti-gravity to the trunk. [Laughter] So, you can now import anti-gravity in whatever the latest Python is.

So, I’m partial to that one. I think the only thing it imports a single function, which then, I think, it invokes the system browser and pulls up that comic. So, that’s got to be my favorite. Another over there? Yeah. >> I just [laughter]… >> Randall Munroe: You can project, yes. >> …work you actually do? [Laughter] Well, not big but popular website, and you got this comic. But, you know, it goes up three times per week. And you’ve got your blag with, like — how much work is that, actually? [Laughter] What do you do? >> Randall Munroe: I do no less work than I did when I was at NASA. [Laughter] I mean, if you remember, what always stuck out, the line in Office Space when the guy’s like, “You know, honestly? I do maybe 15 minutes of real work every day.” And I was like, “That guy’s got it rough.” [Laughter] No, I, that was probably why I left.

Was not just that comics were awesome more, but I was — I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a C programmer. It was just, you know, making libraries work together. There’s something fundamental about that that just turned me off. So, I would just spend a long time, you know, I would load up a whole bunch of files at the beginning. I’d get a make file, put it in there. Make, and then watch it scroll for a while. It gets to an error at the end. And then, I’d sit there for about 15 minutes, just sort of watching it. And then, go and try, okay, let’s change this file name. Go. Compile, compile, compile, compile. It works. So, I’d go make a change again, compile. Okay, it’s broken again. [Laughter] And keep that up for a while, and they’d say, okay, here’s the deadline. So, then I’d take the one that worked and, you know, okay, I got it done. [Laughter] But — no, I don’t know, I never worked. I was actually a terrible student in high school, and then a much better student in college because I didn’t have to stick to a schedule.

So, I would just then — and this is — and I know for a lot of people, this is not a good way to work, but it worked for me. Which is, when I had an assignment, I’d get pretty good at figuring out, okay, how much time is this going to take? Say, I’ve got an assignment that’s going to take, you know, six and a half hours is my guess. And it’s due at 8 o’clock. So, I started at 1:30. [Laughter] And I did that for all of college, and sometimes it meant, okay, I’ve got a whole bunch of things coming in this week, and that means that I just don’t sleep for that week. But there was never any trying to convince myself to work because it’s just, you hit the point where you have to do it, and then you do it. So, and I basically do comics the same way. It’s that I don’t have any ideas until there’s a thing on the site being like, you have to put up a comic now.

And then, suddenly, I’ll be going through my notes, and, oh! This one isn’t that terrible. I can use that. So, it’s just a constant, it sort of feels like a constant flow of the least bad of the comics I’ve been doing, you know, things I’ve been drawing. In the yellow? >> Yes. Would you more likely disagree that the moon landing was a hoax before or after working at NASA [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: Well, it was really, you know, I had my suspicions all along. But, when I started working there, and they actually showed me the shots of the sound stage they had built on Mars [laughter]. >> One night, just about 12 o’clock, I went to look at your comic, and I ran into something that wasn’t actually a comic. It was a different page that linked to it [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: What address did you type in [laughter]? >> It was similar, but it was different… >> Randall Munroe: I mean, because if you’re like me, when you go to the address bar, no matter what page you’re on.

.. >> …before the next one that was put up. >> Randall Munroe: …that’s weird. I think we’ve got it ordered so it creates the new page. And then it updates the links and it updates the index. But I don’t know. That’s pretty strange. Are you using Google Chrome? [Laughter] Because, as of this morning, for some reason, Google Chrome won’t — or as of sometime in the last couple days, I just started hearing about it today — but, yes, Google Chrome doesn’t pick up the CSS file, like all the other browsers do. >> Is it the anti-gravity on your server-side Python? >> Randall Munroe: Damn it. You know, actually, if you go look at the Google Chrome source tree, they include, like, all of CYGWin, and all — I mean, like, they got some huge set of packages.

Like three web servers in there. And the entire Python source tree, I think. >> Is it [inaudible]? >> Randall Munroe: So, presumably, including other Abbeys, that can’t be the problem. All right, in the white? >> I was wondering if you ever tried to get [inaudible] on a raptor? >> Randall Munroe: No, they move fast. You need the plas [phonetic] at the very least. But… >> Well, how about the fast fourier transform [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: That was the joke I should have gone for. Good thinking. You get to draw the next comic. [Laughter] Yes? >> Were you ever contacted by anyone at YouTube with regards to the audio preview of the comments? >> Randall Munroe: No, that showed up in some beta.

I wrote a comic about how YouTube should add this feature where you have to listen to the things you write. And it’s an absolutely terrible idea because, if you can’t get the voice actors to read it in a dramatic voice, then it’s not the same. But someone apparently took it seriously one day. And really just showed up in some of their released code. It was a function that wasn’t used. And then, shortly after, it started appearing on the pages. No one from YouTube has ever contacted me about it. But I did hear from a friend who’s got a friend working there in [inaudible] or something, who apparently saw the comic and thought it made a cool project and stuck it in there. But, as I mentioned with the blog, like — and in general, I mean, the speech synthesized comments, it doesn’t work out so well. It’s hard to get across, you know. And you don’t have to click the button to get it to read the thing to you.

So, you know, you’d just post crap anyway. But, yes, I put this up on the blog. I really — the most heartening thing about it was that I went and looked at what people were saying about the feature. And someone posted a comment saying, “This is the dumb,” and no one knew why. And someone was like, “This is the dumbest feature I’ve ever seen. It has no conceivable use. Why would you put this stupid something there.” And then, “P.S., and the audio preview of my own comments sounded moronic.” [ Applause and Laughter ] So, maybe there’s hope. [Laughter] All right. Back up there. >> Do you have any inside jokes with your friends in the comic? Or, you know, for us [laughter]? >> Randall Munroe: Oh, man, I’ve always been, like, tempted, but I also knew it would be like — my friends, we have, like, way, way, way too many inside jokes.

And when that starts, it doesn’t stop. And you just keep doing jokes that you’re like, “Oh, man, my friends think this is hilarious!” But you forget the 99.999% of people who have read it have never met you. Don’t know what you’re talking about. What I do, I actually do want to do. I was thinking about just doing an inside joke magazine. Where the entire thing would just be inside jokes collected. And, you know, it would have some hilarious name, <i>The Plaster Microwave</i>, and then they’d be, “What did that mean?” “Oh, you had to be there.” [Laughter] So, I always thought that’d be fun. I put a few sort of hidden messages in it. Things like when there were music notes floating above the stage in one of the comics, just show music going by. I actually had a friend of mine arrange a lounge piano piece of “Never Going to Give You Up”. [Laughter] And what really made me happy about that was the thought that someone might, you know, read the comic, you know, look at the joke. The music didn’t really have anything to do with the joke.

There just needed to be music there. And look at it — oh, it looks like an actual piano score. You know, move the wheel-y chair over to the piano, open it back up, okay. [Singing] Fuck! [ Laughter ] And there are couple little things like that in the binary heart. There was a, you know, the binary actually means something. And then, there was a secondary message imbedded in that that was because I was getting over a girl at the time and… >> Aw. >> Randall Munroe: …thanks a lot. So — so yeah. I fit in secret messages like that, but I always have to keep it, like, very much nomic [phonetic] of the joke. You know, it’s the same way with the alt text. I know that everyone who’s, you know, a hardcore XKCD reader with friends who read it. All people who know there’s mouse over text on the image. But I figure most readers still probably don’t. If, you know, if you put your mouse over the comic, the tool tip appears and there’s a little extra joke. And so, I make a point of I only write the joke once I’ve finished the comic and scanned it in.

The mouse over text is never essential to getting it. So — I don’t know, I worry about a lot of that kind of stuff. And I think that that’s part of why it’s worked, is making sure the person who’s stumbling on it. Doesn’t have any other connection to anything that you do, can — or you know, your friends or anything like that, can get it. So, let’s see. Is there a question over there? >> Do you ever get writer’s block? And if you do, what happens? >> Randall Munroe: For most of, I think, late 2006. No, I think it’s pretty much — it’s like I said. I just take the, I’ll have, like, throughout the day. I have these little notebooks where I’ll — when — because a lot of it is just everyone notices stuff that makes you laugh. And you just have to remember, like, write it down.

And then, try to sharpen it and make it, you know, more and more pointed. So, I’ll fill notebooks with little comments or ideas for things. And then, when it comes time to do the comic, I just sort of scan through and I find something that works in there. And, you know, sometimes I’m less happy with it than other times. But I know that, if I don’t do one every day, or, you know, every update day. If I ever start to get lax with the schedule, the pressure would be off completely. And then, you know, I’d do like one comic a month and turn into Megatokyo or something. But, so — I mean, in general, the fact that people, so many people are listening and talking about things. And then I’m now a lot more involved in this whole, you know, tech world and science world. And there’s a lot of stuff going around, so I can always just sort of take something I’m thinking about.

And then, just write dialog about it or write comments about it until it hits something, you know, even if it’s just a terrible pun. It works. But I don’t know, I’ve actually. I wonder a whole lot because I read. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that I was actually preparing for this job. Because as a kid I did nothing but — I did math and science and I read newspaper comics like Calvin and Hobbes and everything. And I would just check out stacks. I read everything in all the humor sections of the library. I was just, why would you ever stop reading humor? Why would you ever spend any time not reading funny things? Because it’s fun — you know, it’s funny, and it’s fun to laugh.

I mean, I remember the librarian actually having a talk with my mom about it. You know, “I think he’s reading a little too much humor.” And then, I remember my mom said, she talked to the librarian, “I know he reads science fiction stuff. I know he reads Isaac Asimov.” And she was like, “Oh yes, he checked out an Asimov book earlier.” It was Asimov’s <i>Treasury of Humor</i> [laughter]. But I actually don’t remember where that started. But, anyway, I’ve been reading… >> You were talking about how your life prepared you for this job. >> Randall Munroe: …yeah, yeah. And, you know, I’ve lost it. I’m sorry. I’m just going to stop.

I’ll come back tomorrow with the rest of, you know, the discussion. Yes? >> Are you aware that carrying moleskin like that gives you a plus two to wisdom? >> Randall Munroe: Also like probably a plus three to hipster, so I don’t know [laughter]. >> Well said [laughter]. >> Randall Munroe: Yeah? >> Would you ever be interested in owning a hot air balloon yourself? >> Randall Munroe: That would actually be kind of cool. I don’t know. What I’ve been doing lately is doing high-altitude kites. I mean, I’ve been doing this on and off. But I just got a camera reprogrammed, so that I can actually fly kites with a camera hanging on that would take pictures for, you know, three or four hours at a time. And I can send the kites up to, you know, a few thousand feet, at least. And get pictures of towns, cities, stuff like that. But I was thinking that a balloon would be a next step.

I actually talked to someone here who’s doing cool balloon research, and I was thinking that, if I can get ahold of a large hot air balloon, you know, I could send up cameras up to absolutely ridiculous heights. And the next step is, obviously, you build a ladder to it and climb up to it. Yeah. I think, it might be more practical to do the cluster ballooning, where you get a whole bunch of, like, the balloons they use to hold up banners at sale places that are, like, about yey-big. And you just get a whole bunch of them and you get a lawn chair underneath, and then you float away, and it becomes an artsy movie. But… >> It’s been done twice. >> Randall Munroe: …oh, cool. You can do that again. >> One time, Dartmouth had a lawn chair relay… >> Randall Munroe: Oh, really cool. >> …got an honorable mention.

>> Randall Munroe: Oh, okay, cool. But did you have cellular connectivity up there? So I can be the first person to blog [laughter]. >> [Inaudible audience comment]. >> Randall Munroe: Oh, oh dear. Yes? >> So, some of your ideas that have been in the comics have come through in real life. I’m wondering, what’s your favorite of those? And what’s your favorite idea that hasn’t come through in real life that you wish it would? >> Randall Munroe: I’m still waiting for someone to put Janeane Garofalo on a space station and then have it crash. And have her jumping the motorcycle off of the space station with a tranquilizer dart gun. Which she needs because she’s going through the volcano, and there’s a Tyrannosaurus waiting for her. I sort of did that one because everyone kept on acting out the comics, and I was like, whoa, this is going to get out of hand fast.

I better set a really high — I better take this to its conclusion quick, you know. I don’t know. One of my favorite ones is when I drew Cory Doctorow with the cape and goggles, and, you know, I had never met him or anything. And, you know, he sort of took it to heart and has been wearing them at events. And it’s, I don’t know — and I have such a combined, you know, affection and amusement for the whole blogosphere. And, you know, he almost exemplifies that best. You know, one of the major bloggers that… And I’m really glad he took it with good humor because he’s now getting that constantly. The installment, by contrast, had — when he was sent samurai swords after I drew a comic about that. He had no idea, you know, what any of this was about.

And he sent back a very nice note saying, “Okay, they’ve explained to me that this is from this comic. And I’m not sure what to do with this sword, but I guess I’ll keep it by my bed.” He was later actually attacked by ninjas at an event. So, up there. >> Do you have any favorite strips? >> Randall Munroe: Oh, okay. There. I didn’t see you. I don’t know. I don’t know. Like, when I go back over them, I’m always self-critical, so I don’t tend to read through the archives much. I know a lot of comic people don’t do that as much. But I know, I guess in the last, you know, 100 or so, there was — what really, what’s interesting about it is, which ones are my favorite is totally influenced by how much people like them. Which, on one hand, is sort of not how art’s supposed to be. But on the other hand, like, if you’re a comedian, and you tell a joke. And no one in the audience laughs, you pretty much told it wrong. You know, maybe you’re talking to the wrong audience, but most likely, the joke is not as good as you thought. But, on the other hand, sometimes it catches me by surprise when I draw one.

Like when I come up with an idea, but I’ve been thinking about it for so long that I’m not really sure about it anymore — whether or not it’s funny or not. Whether or not people will get what I was thinking or what. And then, I get feedback that’s really good. Like, totally catches me by surprise. Then, that’s really cool. One case where that happened, like, what of my early most famous comics was the one that circulated around the most was the Sudo make me a sandwich one. And believe it or not, I thought that comic was, like — I was almost thinking of it as like filler after the other one I had done. Because I was like, well, most people aren’t going to know what Sudo is. And then, the ones who do have probably all encountered this before, and all made this joke. And, you know, they’re just going to go, “Oh yes, that.” And, boy, did that catch me by surprise.

That the readership doubled after I did that comic. So. And also, suddenly my readership was nitpicking any computer remark I made a lot more. One that I got a lot of feedback about that I was also, before I did it, really happy with was the part two of the journal series. Where the guy gets his hat knocked off by the girl. I remember, you know, I came up with that, and I was like, “Oh, man. I really like how this works.” I drew it out. I was really satisfied with it. And I remember just putting it up and being like, “Oh, man, I hope people like this.” And they did, and that was exciting. But. We’re just getting into, I don’t know — I could talk all day about things that I’ve done that I’ve, you know, liked. But. Let’s see. There. >> What are some of your favorite web comics? >> Randall Munroe: Well, one that sadly ended not that long ago was the <i>Perry Bible Fellowship</i>, of course.

That one, he was like the undisputed king of gags, you know, or king of just building up something and then delivering it. And you had no idea where he was going. And suddenly, the last panel would completely change everything around. So, he’s incredible. I think that since he’s stopped working, I think my favorite, like, gag writer probably is Zach Weiner of <i>Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal</i>. That’s one, he’s been around for a long time, but it’s recently really been taking off. And he’s just so consistently punchy and good. And I always feel that like some of the comics I feel best about, I realize, are just approaching closer and closer to executed like one of his. So, there’s also stuff like <i>A Softer World</i>. That’s a more obscure sort of demented photo comic written by a wonderful, completely crazy dude named Joey Comeau. And one of his friends, Ryan, also does <i>Dinosaur Comics</i>.

Which is just an amazing achievement. Let’s see. And then, everyone seems to read <i>Penny Arcade</i>, even the people who aren’t so much gamers. I mean, I still read it, even though I don’t get about half of them. Because the half I do get are so superbly executed. Because they’ve just been doing this, you know, so intently now for a number of years, and they’ve just got it down. And then, the really obscure one that I’ll give a shout out to is <i>Buttercup Festival</i>, which really inspired some of my early comics that people liked. And I kept on pointing people back to it, mostly to no avail because it’s really hard to read that guy’s handwriting. But it’s this really whimsical comic where characters will just suddenly in the middle of a sentence, you know, drift off and float off over the mountains nearby. And there’s something about that that I really like. Hmm, yeah. Let’s see. >> Nicole: So, of course, most of your fans at an undergraduate institution are undergraduates. So, therefore, younger than you are.

And since they’re fans of yours, they are also, by definition, nerdy. [Laughter] And anyone who takes that, you know, as an offensive remark needs to… >> Randall Munroe: I don’t think they’re in here [laughter]. >> Nicole: …anyway… >> Randall Munroe: Or they might say, “Excuse me, I’m not a nerd. I’m a geek.” And then, they’ll be like, 10 minute slideshow on… [ Applause and Cheering ] …and five minutes into the slideshow, you’re like, “By virtue of this, you have proved yourself irrevocably both.” But, anyway, you were saying? >> Nicole: …I’m curious to know that remark you made earlier that, you know, you sort of unknowingly prepared yourself your whole life for this job. >> Randall Munroe: Yes. >> Nicole: It sounds like this job is something that really makes you happy. Something that is fulfilling for you. And I guess I’m just curious because I think it’s safe to say that you are at least one of a nerd or a geek.

What advice might you have for other folks who are similar to you who want to find a potentially non-traditional job or at least a fulfilling job? >> Randall Munroe: I think there’s a couple things here that took a while. That take you a while to figure out. Like, you’ll see a lot of people writing about their career work. People who have been really successful. And there’s a theme that emerges. One of them is that you — and one of them is something that Steve Jobs talks about — which is you cannot connect the dots until — except in hindsight, that, basically, there’s almost no such thing as career planning. That, and the example that Steve Jobs always gives is he, you know, he dropped out of school and then continued attending classes for a while. He would just attend whatever classes seemed interesting to him, and one of them he would go to was a calligraphy class. That he thought, “This is cool, I’ll learn calligraphy.

” And there is no way that anyone, looking at what he was doing there, could have said that that was in any way useful to anything he would be doing. Because he was pretty crew, working on microprocessors and the basics of operating systems and stuff. But he spent a lot of time learning calligraphy. And then, so, you know, a couple years later as they’re putting together this O.S., and they’re working on font render, rending text. As I understand, Steve Jobs, he really pushed. He said, “You know what, we need variable-width fonts. Because that’s really kerning, and these things are really important.” And he did. And Mac — so, Apple became one of the first machines that did good text display like that. Where you could do a lot of the type setting that you couldn’t do on the fixed-width PCs. And because of that, Apple had a head start in the graphics market, and now they’re the dominant machine for any kind of graphics design.

And it’s — you can really trace it back to Steve Jobs had a random interest in calligraphy that he pursued. So, the lesson there, I think, is just, you do whatever seems interesting to you, but you do it like hard. And you know, and get something done. And, if nothing comes of it, but you know, you get something finished, and then you move on to another thing. And then later, you might be able to fit it together. But I think the key is really just keep doing stuff. You know, the other side of that is, the other key element, I think, is something that I’m learning from doing application essays for things. Which I did a lot of up until the current job where there are no standards. I mean, certainly, if they let me in. But is — I found that writing an interesting or unusual application essay in nearly every situation is good. That you almost always error on the side of being too conservative and too stuffy or too whatever. An example, this is the first job I got at NASA.

It was an internship that was really — you know, it was kind of, like, prestigious, and had all sorts of qualified people applying for it. And I was just an undergraduate who had never done anything in the field. And so, I did the application essay. And it was one of those ones — any of you that are undergraduates and are going on to any kind of a program, you’re going to get this question on essays like 80 million times. The application was 10 short answer questions and an essay. And every single short answer question was some variation on, “Why are you a good fit for this program? Or what is it about this program that you think you will bring something to the program? What is it that you think this program will bring to you and help you grow and thus contribute more to the program?” You know, and I filled in 10 of these, and then I got to the essay prompt which was, “Explain something about yourself that shows why you are a good fit for this program.

” And so — and I had just gotten really frustrated at that point, and so I wrote a story about submarines instead. [Laughter] And it was, and if you read into it, like it did tell a little bit about me. It was about how when I was a kid, you know, I would go snorkeling and, you know, and play with these little model submarines. And I was always scared of the deep water. But I couldn’t write it in like really flowery style, like, “A Child’s Fear of the Deep and the Dark” and so on. And so, I wrote this essay, and it had almost nothing to do with the prompt. And I turned it in, and it was only after that that I found out how many other people from other schools had applied for this thing. And it was serious. And I was like, crap, there’s no way I’m getting into this.

And you know, I got accepted, which was a huge surprise. And so, I went and talked to them. And I’m like, I know I didn’t have the grades or anything like this, what was it, you know, why? And — you know, I’ve been working on this. I’m not a good student. Why did you let me in? And they were like, actually, you know, the people on the admissions team really liked the essay. So, and you got to realize, these people are just so sick to death of reading these things over, and over, and over that, you’re, especially with things that are a little bit difficult to get into, you’re often better off taking a chance. My brother’s currently applying to a program where they’ve got a lot of — he’s doing a quiz that has a lot of really interesting questions on it. One that stuck out was, “If you could be any kind of a tree, you would be a sequoia. Why?” [Laughter] And it was actually my cousin who figured the best, the obvious answer to that, which is, “You know, that’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last 700 years.

” [Laughter] So, yes. >> What are your thoughts on the singularity, and your role in society after it happens? >> Randall Munroe: I think there’s this idea that technology is inevitably, everything is accelerating, everything is going faster. Every graph looks like a hockey stick, and there’s going to be this point where everything just goes too fast for human minds. Computers take over, and we’re all, you know, reduced to people floating in pink goo powering batteries or something. And I’m mainly skeptical because I think the people who write about that kind of thing are not the people who actually look at the forefront of technology and realize that these are all bloggers. And somehow I have trouble seeing — it seems like the direction the interesting things that are happening are not yet in like A.

I.s taking things over. And much more in people getting connected in weird ways, and, you know, computers aiding the same kind of social stuff that we were doing already. So, it’s not that I keep up with my friends any faster, so much. I’ll still have days where I don’t necessarily do anything. I just talk to people a little bit. But it’s all through these bizarre media. But I don’t think it really changes anything about us, and I don’t think that the world necessarily leaves us behind. Because the world is us. I think technology just shifts roles around us constantly. So, I don’t really hold with the singularity thing. But, I mean, if it does happen, I expect to see Cory Doctorow riding the cybernetic horse at the front of it. All right. Up here.

>> So, I’m starting a — oh, I have the microphone and that is awesome. And to hear my own voice, it’s weird. >> Randall Munroe: Bring it here. We’ll put in feedback. Yes, go. >> I’ll just talk normally. So, I’m starting a Students for Free Culture… >> Randall Munroe: Awesome. >> …chapter on campus. And one of the issues we deal with is DRM. And I know you had a comic about that a few weeks ago, so… >> Randall Munroe: You read it? >> …yes. >> Randall Munroe: You’re not allowed to do that [laughter]. >> Yeah, right. And I know you also talk about Cory Doctorow and Ara Mez [phonetic]. And so, I’m wondering if you consider yourself to be an activist.

And if you see the strip moving in a direction where it will involve more advocacy in the future. >> Randall Munroe: No, because I think I have a really hard time being preachy and funny at the same time. It’s pretty much one or the other. Because I notice, and I’ll just start the comic, and I’ll realize it’s turning into a screed. And any time, there’s like this screed trigger that trips, and then I’m like, wait, I need to back off with this for a second and make it sound more. So, I think that the role of humor is generally making things absurd. Like things that are absurd making them more absurd are pointing out they’re kind of silly. And that I can do, especially in that area, because there are so many silly things. But I don’t know. I really have to work hard, like, not to take myself too seriously and the comic too seriously.

Because it’s easy to do that when everyone’s writing in to you and being like, “It’s awesome. It’s really important.” All that stuff. And I think it’s hard to do that and be funny at the same time. And so, when it’s one or the other, I go with being funny. Sometimes, it’s neither. But, unfortunately, I sort of view the calling of making really lame jokes as ultimately a higher calling than any sort of social activism. Up there. Yeah. >> Ninjas or pirates? >> Randall Munroe: I feel like, lately, zombies have really taken off. [Applause] I mean, as someone who grew up on Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles it’s really hard to, you know, not to get behind the Ninja’s on that one. But on the other hand the pirates have the hooks. I’m pretty — I just sort of avoid a stand on either of them. I don’t think that either of them are really well equipped to deal with raptors [laughter] so it’s really not of interest to me. Also smoke bombs don’t work nearly as well as they’re supposed to [laughter].

Yes? >> Yeah, so basically so you were talking like technology and stuff. So [inaudible] and if you were given the capacity to invent any one thing. Like anything, what would that be? >> Randall Munroe: There’s an open ended question [laughter]. >> [Inaudible response] [Laughter].. >> Randall Munroe: So I’ve just been watching Sarah Connor Chronicles [laughter]. I pretty much want to build the Summer Glaw Bodyguard [laughter]. I don’t know. That show has its ups and downs but it’s consistently fun to watch Summer Glaw punch people through walls [laughter]. >> Did you actually try the smoke bombs and make an escape? >> Randall Munroe: I — I have played with smoke bombs and they’re a lot of fun. I hadn’t tried the awkward escape.

Although I did not too long after that have a friend say, “You know, we need to talk about this. The feelings.” And I’m like, “It’s really a smoke bomb moment [laughter].” And they were like, “I understand, we’ll do this later.” [Laughter] I was like, “Okay.” And we just walked away [laughter]. But no, a friend of mine was talking about how she knew someone who would actually do the whole smoke bomb pantomime including like the awkward backing away. And the like taking it out, lighting it, dropping it and then like quietly backing away and then like running out the door. And — and she said it got a little bit more awkward every time [laughter]. Yes? >> I guess my question is I — I feel like a lot of your jokes fall into two categories. One where the it’s the CS, the math and the physics jokes, and then on the other side it’s like the Web 3.

0 like [inaudible]. [Inaudible] about a rockwall or stuff like that [laughter]. So I guess I was wondering do you think that the comic has changed as your readership has grown and maybe gone a little bit more mainstream. I was kind of interested in that. >> Randall Munroe: Yeah. I don’t know. A lot of time I find that my impression of what’s happened to the comic is not actually — like it’s sort of skewed. Like I’ll go and I’ll — someone is like you stopped using color or you use color all the time now. Or one of those. And like then I went — yeah I think I do. And then I went in the survey and found that I like used exactly the same proportion of color strips versus non and like throughout the whole time I did the survey. But about that. I don’t know. I mean I’ve certainly got more involved in a lot of the stuff that’s taken off as I’ve been doing the comic. Stuff like, you know, I first discovered Redditt as they were linking to me and started hanging out there.

Other sites like that. So that’s definitely been a focus in a way that it wasn’t before because I wasn’t involved in it. So there’s definitely been that. So — so that’s definitely taken over some. But I don’t know, whenever I’ve been on one topic for a while I think okay, let me — I want to do something about this. Or I get tired of it and move on. So I feel like there’s sort of a permanent, you know, jumping back and forth and maybe I’ll hang out in one of the sections longer than usual, but ultimately I try to keep something — you know, something for everyone. See, and the girl in the center. >> Due to the midterm schedule last week, I accidentally attempted the twenty hours a week being asleep [laughter].

I passed out in the library around day three. So I was wondering if to your knowledge, anyone’s every completed the whole system? >> Randall Munroe: Yeah, I — I’ve gotten on the 28-hour day, I’ve done a week and a half. But — and there’s a website run by a guy whose family all lives on it [laughter]. I discovered after doing the comic but it — I — I really don’t think it’s for mortals [laughter]. There was a guy that I had talked to who had done a Mars project who was living on a Martian day for you know studying something or other and like after — he was just doing it for a year. You know, staying up all night in well-lit rooms. And something about it, the rhythms being off, he actually started just hallucinating and getting weireded out after like doing that for about a year. But — and that’s only like a 45 or 48 minute difference. So it can definitely throw you off after a while. I know that while doing for example the canvas thing I ended up doing you know one of those 64-hour days followed by one of those 24-hour [laughter] sleeping, followed by, you know, no schedule at all. So that’s much more common.

But yeah, you generally hit the point where you’re in the middle of the day and feeling really tired and you’re — but you’re supposed to be awake until late that night and you don’t want to. That’s usually where I’m doomed. On the other hand, don’t you have some sort of requirement that you’re supposed to pass out — sleep in one of the libraries? [Laughter] Someone was explaining to me about this list [laughter]. >> Tower room. >> Randall Munroe: Yeah, tower room [laughter]. Huh? >> It’s not being a sneaky person. >> Randall Munroe: Take a nap? Yeah [laughter]. Okay [laughter]. Okay [laughter]. Huh? >> Can sleep [inaudible]. >> [Inaudible]. >> Randall Munroe: Unless you’re continuing to work [laughter]. Yes? >> How much time to you actually spend on [inaudible]? >> Randall Munroe: God, for a while I actually had it blocked in my hosts file. So whenever I went there it would redirect me to XKDC.

com/no [laughter]. Which is just — it’s just a mirror of isitchristimas.com except it also says no on Christmas [laughter]. And — and that actually — that was when it really surprised me because I was like — it seems like hiding the cigarettes from yourself. Like you know where they — you know that you just blocked yourself. You could unblock yourself if you wanted. You should just be able to decide not to go there. So I set that but I felt kind of silly doing it. And then I was amazed at like six times in the hour after I had set it I found myself staring at the no and being completely startled [laughter]. Like — like I would just be like, okay, I’m typing to someone, typing to someone and then no.

Oh man, I just flipped over and typed CNN and read it or whatever [laughter]. Wow. So I don’t know, a fair bit of time. I changed names constantly though. I — I — which no one knew up until now [laughter]. I — I like — I don’t know I try to post under — I try to change my names every so often instead of posting under the XKCD name just because it’s — because then people will tell you when your jokes are stupid [laughter]. I mean and it — it feels like I’m getting more honest feedback. You know, when I’m being anonymous which is the cool thing about the internet. Which is also the cool thing about real life which is other than the — that in general people don’t know what I look like which means on the street. Like if I ever started to be like, oh man, you know, it’s the internet I’m cool. Then I could just go out on the street and like, nobody knows who I am. So that’s [laughter] — that’s healthy. Of course now you all know what I look like which means you probably no one will leave this room [laughter]. No I mean I always think that when people ask about the raptors thing, you know, I always have to size up the room.

but the really important thing here is that raptors are fast but I assume they can only — they can only kill but so many people — kill and eat so many people per minute or whatever [laughter]. So it’s like the old joke that I don’t actually have to outrun the raptors. I just have to outrun one of you [laughter]. So… >> But you’re in the spotlight. >> Randall Munroe: But the windows over there [laughter]. No we’re… >> [Inaudible response]. >> Randall Munroe: Right, well and you know they’ll get those two and the ones coming from the sides and then there’s the other one in the helicopter with the sniper rifle [laughter]. It’s — it’s — that’s going to be in Jurassic Park IV [laughter]. And up there again. A few more questions. >> You were saying that [inaudible] girl that [inaudible]. What was your family/parent’s reaction to that? >> Randall Munroe: I mean the main question was are — do you need to move back in? No [laughter]. Then its fine [laughter].

Like as long — as long as I’m at least paying rent they’re — you know they’re pretty open to that. At first — I remember my mom was pretty — kind of nervous at first. Like you’re leaving a job at NASA to draw pictures [laughter]? But then she realize — then when she started noticing that like people in the tech community are reading it. If I ever, you know, want to work on a project and you know want to send out a resume or something it opened up a lot of avenues. So — so my family was actually pretty cheerful about it once they sort of figured out what it was all about. It was — it was definitely a weird moment but on the other hand I was really ready to leave the office spaceish environment. So even if it did mean just sort of coasting for a while I was — I was okay with it. It wasn’t — it wasn’t too scary a transition.

>> I was just wondering what the deal is with the flying ferret [laughter]? Did you… >> Randall Munroe: Yeah, that was actually — that was one of those random [inaudible]. My brother had a ferret that he would hold. There’s a point in the comic where the kid — where the guy holds the ferret kind of by the scruff of the neck and it’s just dangling there looking at him. And my brother had a ferret and he would always walk around with it and he loved it dearly and hold it like that. And played with it. And — and so I incorporated that into the comic and — and then at some point. I think I was just drawing ferrets and I drew one with wings and I liked the idea and then I just did a couple comics with it. And but that did come out of a real ferret that died not too long ago.

But — but which was adorable and I have many memories of waking to the ferret being dropped on my face [laughter] while I slept, which definitely hastened my decision to move out [laughter]. But — but that is where that — that was a real ferret. >> Did he really smell? >> Randall Munroe: Yes. >> I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dr. Horrible sing along [laughter] [applause]. I was wondering if you’ve made a super villain. Evil — evil submission and if you haven’t what would it be? [ Silence ] >> Randall Munroe: Yeah, well I’m just thinking of what — what particular guise. I don’t know, I think that I could maybe channel my talents — I think we need an entropy villain. He — just everywhere, everywhere he goes things start to — decay processes speed up. Things become disorganized; things accelerate. The — the…

>> The cryptographers would love him. >> Randall Munroe: [Inaudible]? >> The cryptographers would love him. >> Randall Munroe: Oh true. I — that’s — that’s one of the most frustrating vocabulary distinctions is — is whether entropy means — you know which one entropy means in the information theory context. And I keep on like running into a place where I have this number going up and its entropy going up or it’s going down. Does that mean there’s more information or more disorder? What? But no, I like this idea, especially because you could have the villain be one of the obsessive organizers and the — the bad guy just be Entropy Man. So like he’s walk into the room and things on the desk would like — the pencils — the colored pencils would start to flip out of order [laughter]. And then the hero would go and rearrange them and the Entropy man would you know just stand there and then you would see like all of the cabinets open and the paper would come out and start reshuffling [laughter]. And then everything goes faster.

And you know works. And the only guy who watches through to the end of this movie is incredibly patient man [laughter]. All right, we can do a — does anyone — I actually can’t see a clock from here. How we are on time? >> [Inaudible response]. >> Randall Munroe: All right. So we’ll do a couple more. >> How’s your campaign for presidency of the internet going? >> Randall Munroe: I took a look at the internet [laughter] — I sort of wrote that into the Black Cat comic as wait a minute, I don’t want to be in charge of this [laughter]. Because you — no matter — no matter how evil you tried to be you would end up taking internet arguments seriously and that’s just not a good road to go down. Because then you — like it’s — you know, it’s a year later, you’re drunk on the allies of slash dot arguing with — arguing with internet trolls about Natalie Portman [laughter] and it’s just — it’s a bad place to be.

I’ve — I’ve seen that happen to people. It’s not pleasant [laughter]. So. Let’ see, in the hat. >> [Inaudible response]. >> Randall Munroe: Sweet thank you. I have trouble finding hats in my size since I’ve got — I think I measured once. It’s on the upper end of head circumference so I really need to find somewhere that will custom — that will do a black hat of the kind in the comic that will fit me. >> [Inaudible response]. >> Randall Munroe: Hm-mm? >> Conway. >> Randall Munroe: Conway? >> Farmway. >> Randall Munroe: Farmway? >> Farmway. >> Randall Munroe: Farmway [laughter]. >> It’s a store. >> Randall Munroe: Okay, I was just — see how long we could keep exchanging that word [laughter]. Cool. Yeah, I was actually not a huge hat person before that. But — before the comic. But then I kept drawing it in there.

I’m like, that’s kind of cool. I should do that. So yeah. I’d like to see it come back. I don’t know. I think — I think that we had — I think Kennedy made history in the — the inauguration when he didn’t wear a hat to it. I think he was the first president not to wear a hat to the inauguration and then hatlessness became a trend. And I’d really the next — this upcoming inauguration maybe bring it back [laughter]. Have the first president to be inaugurated with a hat. And I could really see Obama in — there’s some pictures of him in like the — the cowboy sheriff’s hat. Sort of the here to clean up these parts. I think he could try to make that work. And then anyone who’s a huge Mel Brooks fan appreciates that image that’s been floating around of Obama in the Sheriff’s hat with the caption “It worked in Blazing Saddles” [laughter]. >> [Inaudible response]. >> Randall Munroe: There’s a couple references tied up in there. But — but yeah, overall hats I’m a fan.

Hair is a pain so that’s easy enough. What’s — question up in the back. >> What are the [inaudible] comic [inaudible]? >> Randall Munroe: That started as something I’m drawing. It’s going to finish. I’ve just had — I’ve been trying to wait until all the people who remember the original strips are long gone [laughter] and then I’ll do the conclusion and it’ll just confuse the hell out of everyone [laughter]. But the thing is, the longer I have it sitting around, the more I’ve been — like the longer I’ve like the sketch — like here’s what I think the last strip, the last two strips are going to be. The more like epic it gets [laughter]. So at this point I feel like I really need to — need to get it, to make it worth this wait. So, which makes me, you know, take longer on it which makes it better and better. So I — I expect it — I’ll be like you know the Marmaduke guy at 80 churning out XKDC and then I’ll die and they’ll come in and find like a room in the — in my house that no one new about and they’ll go in and they’re just be walls and walls of red spider drawings and [laughter] everything’s crossed out and papers thrown over the floor.

And like [laughter] one wall is a mural and, you know, everything’s connected by yarn and [laughter]. And then they’ll keep on releasing posthumous XKDC collections of his — his unreleased notes from this. And it’ll just get worse, and worse, and worse [laughter]. But again and again. That seems to be the way things go. Yes? >> Could you give us a summary of your perfect treehouse? >> Randall Munroe: Man. There would be a component suspended from a balloon. Like it would go up above the tree. Everything — so from what I recall. I don’t have my notes here with me. But every — I think I’ve got — out of all the numerical mentions of raptor, physiological attributes in Jurassic Park, I remember they were able to do jumps of eight to 12 feet vertically in — in The Lost World. In the book. And I think they had the High Hide which was about 18 or 20 feet off the ground but the raptors were able to jump up and get to the lower bar of it when they took running jumps.

So definitely 22, 23 feet at a very minimum would be the first part of the treehouse that you’d get a grip on [laughter]. And then from there on it’s basically the Swiss Family Robinson [laughter]. Except those tigers were nothing. I mean. Yes? >> What’s the line that you draw at where you let how popular XKDC takes it? Like okay say somebody says — somebody comes up to you and says, “Well get [inaudible] XKDC TV series [inaudible]. Would you do that? >> Randall Munroe: First of all I don’t know anything about animation. I figure all the stick figure animation that needs to be done Don Herzfeld already did with Rejected [laughter] [applause]. But [applause] no it’s like I said, I actually — I’m a huge fan of — of — of you know, newspaper comics and that medium. Gag comics, Far Side type stuff. But I really don’t know a lot about animation and about, you know, movies and telling jokes that way. So I — I wouldn’t know the first thing about what to do with it. You know? And of course then there’s the artistic integrity.

So it would really come down to is how much money are they offering [laughter]? But — yes? >> Would you write a book and what would it be about? >> Randall Munroe: Yes and you’ll see [laughter]. And… >> You said earlier [inaudible] your 11th grade Spanish class. >> Randall Munroe: I really don’t know. I’m worried that she’ll like — I’ll get a call from her like, “You were staring at me drawing me [laughter].” Yeah, one of the very early comics — this was before I made it a web comic. I was just storing a bunch of drawings I had done online and one of them was this girl lying in front of me in Spanish class. And — and I was watching a really boring movie and she had fallen asleep and I had just sort of sketching and drew her and the floor under her or something like that. And — and you know she was watching the movie or something. And — and it was in my notebook.

And when I was scanning things to save I was like, “Oh I kind of like that.” I scanned it and saved it. And it ended up in the web comic and ever since then I’ve been wondering if she’s going to like, notice that I was at her school and then like look at that one and be like, “He drew my ass. [Laughter] He was staring at my — he was staring at me [laughter].” And get really creeped out. So I don’t know. I should have really said it was a different class just to have plausible deniability. But I didn’t. Yeah, so no idea. All right, I think we have time one or two more questions. We’ll do right here. >> [Inaudible] kill us all? >> Randall Munroe: Kill us all? >> Yeah. [Inaudible]. >> Randall Munroe: When is what going to? >> The LHC? >> Randall Munroe: Oh, the LHC. Well I think they’re getting it up to the appropriate speed sometimes late next year. Yeah and then — then it’s just a matter of quickly the strange [inaudible] spread [laughter].

But I think that really what they need — we really need to accelerate work on the LHC if we want to beat out global warming as a way to destroy the earth [laughter]. I think there’s no excuse for this laziness [laughter]. I think there’s all this debate about — the debate over, you know, how much of it — what’s man made, how much it’s manmade. How much — how much of the damage being done to the planet is manmade. And I think we could shoot at very least a higher percentage [laughter]. I think the LHC gives us a great shot at that. Like you thought carbon was bad. So yes, I definitely have high hopes for the scientific advances that will permitted. Also it’ll be hilarious if it completely screws over string theorists [laughter]. And the problem is they’ll just be like, “Well we have one of the other 10 to the 15th theories [laughter] that — so I’m afraid at that point we just have to use super soakers to subdue them [laughter]. All right.

We can do on more question. Up there. >> Have you been approached for newspaper or magazine syndication and would you [inaudible]? >> Randall Munroe: I don’t know. I feel like the newspapers — like newspaper syndication is really kind of a raw deal compared to doing the web comic. You know, you don’t get the rights to your stuff. You don’t — I mean you don’t — you don’t — Bill Watterson helped a lot with that — fighting for that. But you know, ultimately other people are in control of the creation. Where it’s put, where it’s published, what you’re allowed to say and what sort of jokes you can do. You have to appeal to everyone who reads the newspaper instead of like the 2% of crazy nerdy people [laughter]. And, you know, it’s like with music labels. You know most the profit goes to the syndicates and the middle people. So really what I do is when — when I’m asked about that I feel almost obliged to — to say, “No I’m not interested in that nor being transmitted by telegraph either.” And then leap onto my motorcycle and spin around throw dust in their face and ride off into the blogosphere [laughter].

>> But you have been offered? >> Randall Munroe: Hm-mm? Yeah they’ve actually run them in a few — I a couple of places. Mostly it’s a matter of like I — since I don’t do them ahead of time I’m not able to get them strips ahead of time and we don’t have a facility for getting them high res printable versions. So, you know, they have to run them kind of small which I never thought was a problem because it seems like they already run comics way to small anyway. But most of the time though people who want — they’re — they’re — I feel like most people who want to read it just read it on the computer and don’t — you know that — that that’s where most web comics are [laughter]. And that — that — and you know most the comics that people are reading now are online.

You know, they have a print presence but that people who discover them will then go — like someone who doesn’t have an internet connection and doesn’t — you know, doesn’t work with the internet much, doesn’t work with computers much I feel like isn’t going to be getting a lot out of XKC per- — anyway [laughter]. But I — I — yeah, I mean I’ve done that now and then. I just don’t see it as — there being a huge demand there. All right, we’ll do — we’ll do one more. Up there. >> How many computational linguists does it take to change a light bulb? >> Randall Munroe: what exactly do you mean by that question [laughter]? I think — ultimately I think that the light bulb is — whether or not it is a construct of language is a question that will be addressed in my future papers on this subject and hopefully by the end of it I will have developed the framework in which we can examine the concepts entailed in your uses of the words change and light bulb.

Determine whether or not it’s the light bulb that is changed or whether it is truly us [laughter]. This paper — that’s the abstract of my submission [laughter]. [ Applause ] So, thank you very much. >> Nicole: So were you sincere about the marriage proposal [laughter]? All right I’d like to thank Randall again for coming to the [inaudible]. >> Randall Munroe: [Cheering and applause] Well, thank you. [ Cheering and Applause ] Thank you. [ Cheering and Applause ] >> Nicole: And I’d like a quick — a few quick words before you leave. The event is not quite over yet. We are going to have a party in Collis Common Grounds thanks to the help of Creating Gaming Club and the club with most of the t-shirts. So that will start at 8:00, as I said. Collis Common Ground, 8 o’clock to whenever you feel like leaving up until one in the morning. So we’re going to have XKDC themes movies, XKCD themed video games and other games. And XKCD themes costume contest with the X — with prizes from the XKDC store. Autographs from the creator of XKDC and dessert EBA’s themed [laughter].

>> Randall Munroe: So that raptor stole my shirt [laughter]. >> Lets all thank Nicole for making this happen. [ Cheering and Applause ] >> Nicole: You’re welcome. And also tomorrow we’re going geocaching. So if anyone is unfamiliar with geocaching I suggest you do what we all do, look it up on the internet. Make a long story short. On Saturday afternoons a whole bunch of the XKDC fans meet up at a somewhat random location and so we’re going and we’d like for you to join us if you have a ride. We’re going to meet outside Dartmouth Hall about 1:30 and if you want more details then check out the event on Facebook. Its Dartmouth Come to XKDC associated with our Facebook group XKDC Comes to Dartmouth. The parties is also XKDC Comes to Common Ground. So just type something like that into Facebook and it’ll find it. >> That’s what she said [laughter].

>> Randall Munroe: That is literally what she said [laughter]. >> Nicole: Yes it is. Thank you. [ Cheering ].