ICPC World Finals: Day 1

Bon Voyage, Bon Voyàge

that was from Anything Goes, the very first play I ever ran the soundboard for.

We flew down to San Antonio today via St. Louis for the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals (ACM ICPC). The trip was pretty quick and painless; both our flights left on time and arrived ahead of schedule, which was very nice.

On the travel: We flew a prop plane from Madison to St. Louis. That was the first prop plane I’ve ever ridden on, so that was pretty cool. Gave my half-awake mind the impression of flying to some remote destination reachable only by a small prop plane, which left me a renewed sense of wonder in the world. And then I fell asleep, with my neck at a rather awkward angle, so by the time we got to St. Louis I was a bit sore. St. Louis’s airport was a bit crummy and dirty without a whole lot of options for food. As a result, lunch was Burger King, served a la carte in the most confusing manner I have ever received food. The flight to San Antonio was nice. The jet engines were a auditory relief after sitting in the aisle right next to the prop going to St. Louis. Getting to the hotel was a nonevent until we had to check in… under Dieter’s name, who did not accompany us on the trip. That made for an interesting moment.

Afternoon & Evening:
We walked around the area near our hotel for a while before supper. Weather is definitely nice down here: 85 degrees when we got off the plane. We went through a park and a huge convention center across the street from our hotel, then saw a little bit of the nearby mall and riverwalk area. Unfortunately, I forgot to find a store to buy a razor, so by the time I get to do that tomorrow, I think I’ll be looking a bit rough around the edges… Good news is the people here won’t notice. No offense to us, and I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, but I’ve never seen such a collection of nerds in my entire life. Even with the foreign teams, it was pretty clear we were all the nerdier types.

After our brief sojourn through the neighborhood, we came back for a complimentary supper of Americanized Mexican food. I was hoping to get something more authentic, but at least it was good. All you can eat buffet = happy travlers.

Then came the excitement. We went to the registration booth to check in, and I nearly got our team disqualified. My horrible offense? I mixed up the order of pages in my copy of the reference library. The library is a three ring binder with 22 pages of notes that we have created on basic programming algorithms & ideas. We are all supposed to have identical copies, so that no one gets an advantage by having 75 pages of notes instead of 25. Since I had my pages in the wrong order (7-22, then 1-6 instead of 1-22), they were concerned about us cheating and instructed us that we had better fix it. Oops. Great start.

After dinner & registration, we hung out in the “CyberCafe”… aka “wifi access point, several dozen computer terminals running linux, a huge chess board (like big enough you can put both feet in each square), and a catering service to provide snack food.” So not really a cafe at all, but I can’t deny that it was connected to the net, so I guess the Cyber moniker is applicable. Unfortunately I got caught up in watching chess, and didn’t get this journal entry done up there where the internet is, so you had to wait until tonight. Oh well, you’ll survive. On the upshot, I beat Matt (the grad student coach who came down with us) in a game of chess, so that was a nice ego boost. I’m not ashamed to admit though that it was mostly luck, because I made some seriously dumb moves and gave away quite a few pieces.

All’s well that ends well I guess.

So, now tomorrow we have a lot of orientation type stuff, and then Tuesday starts the coding in earnest. Stay tuned!

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