[IOI 2014 Outtakes]

Miscellaneous observations that didn’t make it into a compelling narrative, sometimes because I have forgotten exactly when they happened, sometimes because I only remembered when they happened after blogging about it, sometimes because it just seemed too tangential, sometimes just because of the circumference of the mooooooooooooooooon! (That made no sense and I’m not going to remember what I’m alluding to in a few months.)

  • During the first day a guy came into the secret computer room that the Taiwan team had concealed themselves in, saw us watching anime (SAO 2 among others), and innocently asked, "Are you the Japanese team?"

  • The organizers had provided a free whack-a-mole machine, two basketball machines, a Kinect, and a table soccer table in the basement outside the dining hall. I don’t know what it is with science olympiads and table soccer; it’s been provided at all three Olympiads I’ve gone to. Can this be just a fluke?

  • Paul spent most mornings and evenings playing Kingdom Rush in our room. Kingdom Rush is a great game, but the reason I put it here is that I was mildly amused to see a Kingdom Rush screenshot in Evan’s IMO 2014 report when it came out. Things that transcend boundaries…

  • Somewhere among the many occasions when I abruptly switched to English to greet my classmates, our team developed the "Hey, Brian!" meme, which then got two letters transposed. Just for your information.

  • I spotted T-shirts from IOI 2011, IOI 2012, IOI 2013, IMO 2012, Google Code Jam, TopCoder, Codeforces, Dropbox, and Quora.

  • There really does appear to be a critical mass of confused people dining in one place above which clapping for no reason is contagious. I observed this during IMO 2012 too. The new thing I learned was that the same trick also works with singing “Happy Birthday” to some degree.

  • During one of the bus rides, I was randomly pulled into a conversation about Phineas & Ferb. I impressed some contestant (I don’t remember which country he came from, unfortunately; it might have started with a T?) by mentioning the English name of the evil genius, Doofenshmirtz. (For a few seconds I wondered if I had met a certain IMO legend again.) The guy congratulated me, then remarked that my eye cover made me look like a character from Happy Tree Friends. "It’s not good news to be a character from Happy Tree Friends. Especially since we’re on a bus. Do you know the episode on a bus?"

    I didn’t know the episode on a bus, and I was pretty sure I preferred not to know.

  • I still remember xyz111, the full scorer from China, for writing the Codeforces round (#254) that totally pwned me (my first rating decrease!) and then issuing an editorial in response to an unexpected solution saying,

    This is my mistake, and I feel sorry for not noticing that, I’m too naive, and not good at solving problems. Please forgive me.

    o_O

    not good at solving problems

    O_o and people wonder why I’m humble…

[IOI 2014 Part 4] Shades of Xanthous

No, I didn’t forget. Not for one minute. I was doing homework. I am very happy because that means I was actually carrying out my priorities as I envisioned them. I’ve probably edited this post too many times, though. Meh. But it’s the first weekend after finishing summer homework, so here we go again!

Fun fact: This is by far my favorite post title in the entire series. Possibly in the entire history of this blog.


In the morning of the last day of official IOI activities, there were a bunch of cultural activities, e.g. writing Chinese characters calligraphically, doing tricks with the diabolo, or picking up beans with chopsticks, and noncultural activities, e.g. getting somebody to pour water into a cup on your head while he or she was blindfolded. Due to the last activity I got wet, but my shirt dried really quickly. And alas, even though I had taken calligraphy summer classes a long time ago, my calligraphy was awful — robotic, lifeless strokes without the right aesthetic proportions to make up for it. Blargh.

Anyway, lunch followed, and then it was time for the closing ceremony, in the same building as the other ceremonies and contests. Our team caught the ending song of in a Chinese musical being rehearsed as we walked into the auditorium. While we waited for everybody, we milled about waving flags that our various teachers had brought, including not only Taiwan’s flag but also flags of my school, thoughtfully brought by teachers who had volunteered. A little later our leader told us that all the leaders had discussed the matter during a meeting and decided that we shouldn’t bring any flags to the stage while receiving our medals, so we were going to have to make do with being patriotic and school-respecting off stage.

There were a few performances, including two aboriginal music performances and the musical we had seen rehearsed ealier, which was a fun rock musical rendition of some Chinese tale that seemed to have been sharply abridged, giving it the plot depth of a Wikipedia stub-article synopsis — a conflict, boy-meets-girl-and-falls-in-love, and a lamenting Aesop song conclusion with thrillingly vague general applicability. But the singing and counterpointing and atmosphere were good. I guess it was proportional to the relative importance of the performance to the closing ceremony. The program interleaved them with the long-awaited medal presentations: one round of bronze medalists, one round of silver, one round of gold.

Dum-dum-dum-dum, medals! The home team advantage was really obvious here; the cheering and the medal-presenter handshakes were both significantly more forceful for Taiwan’s medalists.

I think our leader made this. Thanks.

I think our leader made this. Thanks.

Naturally, after the normal medals had been exhausted, the three full scorers received bags with prizes that may forever remain unknown to my sorry self, as well as a standing ovation from everybody in the auditorium. The orchestra had been going through ABBA songs during the ceremony, and very considerately played “The Winner Takes It All” for this part. It was impossible not to mentally fill in the lyrics.

The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complaiiiiiiiin?

Speeches followed. Most were just average forgettable speeches, but Forster gave another speech that was somehow even better than the one he gave at the opening ceremony, with nonstop golden quotables such as:

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[IOI 2014 Part 3] Games of Luck and Strategy and Really Weird Noises

Shamelessly getting unfinished business out of the way. Yup, that’s me.

Excursion Day 1. We traveled down to Yilan on a bus. I played guess-it with Paul.

I was quite surprised at myself for remembering this game, but I think it’s simple and little-known enough to be worth mentioning. Guess-it is a remarkably pure game of luck and bluffing from one of Martin Gardner’s columns, played with a small odd number of cards, e.g. the 13 cards of one poker suit. The cards are dealt evenly to players (who can look at them) with one card left over, which is kept face down; players take turns choosing one of two actions:

  1. Name a card and ask the other player if he or she has it. These questions must be answered honestly.
  2. Guess the left-over card. The guesser wins if correct; the other player wins if not.

Guess-it is not trivial because sometimes you should ask the other player if he or she has a card that you already see in your hand; otherwise whenever you answered “no” to a query you’d immediately guess that the asked card is the hidden one. It is actually a solved game in the sense that the probabilities of the Nash equilibrium strategy for when to guess and when to bluff have been worked out already, but they’re not simple probabilities by any means and humans are terrible randomizers anyway. A few rounds of it sure beats rock-paper-scissors. I was very amused to lose almost all our games with 11 cards but win almost all of our games with 13.

Okay, no more gratuitous narrative excursions into game-theory. The first stop, National Center for Traditional Arts, was a very laid-back culture place with old-fashioned retro shops and streets.

We watched a 3D glove puppetry (布袋戲) video, in the same session as a lot of the leaders.

519
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[IOI 2014 Part 2] One Line to Solve Them All

I started trying to sleep at 9 the night before the contest, tossed and turned in bed until 10, then fell asleep and got up at 3:35 in the morning. Blah. At that point, I went to the bathroom and applied some chapstick before trying to go back to sleep until 6. After breakfast, I grabbed a few minutes of sleep on the bus to the convention center where our contest would be, then slept on a sofa outside the actual contest hall alongside most of the rest of our team as we waited for a very long time until it was okay for us to enter. Competitions really mess with one’s sleep schedule.

Then, much too soon, we could enter. Day 1 of the contest was about to start.

The laptops were as yesterday, although they were protected with a white screensaver that indicated my name and ID as well as a countdown to the start of the contest. I was glad to see that my mousepad and all my writing utensils had survived without me. Somebody had the sense of humor to project an online stopwatch with an animated bomb fuse onto the screens to indicate the remaining time, which, once again, there was a lot of.

I conferred briefly with Paul (TZW (alphaveros (?))) about vim settings for a bit, but there were still fifteen minutes left or so. I idly stretched, practiced typing my .vimrc on an imaginary keyboard, and watched as the US dude two tables to my left unplugged his laptop’s mouse and rearranged absolutely everything on his table using the surface under his chair as swap space. (Well, that was how I mentally described it at the time, pending further revelations. (hint hint))

Then it began.

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[IOI 2014 Part 1] Everything is More Exciting with Lightsabers

Okay, I guess it was really naïve of me to suppose that I could get any considerable amount of blogging done before the IOI ended. Onward…

We left off at the end of the practice session. As if somebody were taking revenge against us for not having to suffer through any airplane trips, we were served a cold airplane meal for lunch.

Seriously, the box had a sticker that noted its manufacturer as something something Air Kitchen and another translucent sticker that badly covered an inscription saying the same thing in much bigger letters. It contained a cold apple salad, a cold chicken bun, a cold flat plastic cylinder of orange juice, and a package of plastic utensils that was exactly like the utensils that came with every airplane meal ever. I was disappointed, but at least the salad tasted okay, and I ate an extra one because two of my teammates volunteered theirs.

To pass the time, we played an extra-evil ninety-nine variant. Apparently this is a very Taiwanese game because lots of student guides were teaching their teams the game, although our special cards differ from the ones Wikipedia lists in a lot of ways and our evil variant created more opportunity for sabotage and counter-sabotage and bluffing. 7s are used to draw your replacement card from somebody else’s hand, and that person cannot draw again and will have one less card; aces are used to swap your entire hand with somebody else, who also cannot draw a card; small-value cards can be combined to form special values (e.g. play a 2 and 5 for the effect of a 7) but after playing a combination you can only draw one replacement card; and later, to speed up the game, we added a rule where all 9s had to be unconditionally discarded without replacement but would still get shuffled back into the draw pile. Players lose if it’s their turn and they have no playable cards, including no cards at all.

While we were playing and repeatedly reveling in everybody ganging up to beat the winner from the last round, an instrumental version of “You Are My Sunshine” played on repeat in the background for literally the entire time. It wasn’t a very good version either. If you didn’t listen carefully for the fade-out and few seconds of silence at the end of each loop, you’d think that the loop was only one verse long.

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[IOI 2014 Part 0] Waiting

Yes, I know day 1 of the contest already ended and is probably a more interesting topic to blog about, but I finished writing this last night just before the internet was cut off to quarantine the contestants from the leaders, who received the problems and began translating them. I didn’t know about this until it was too late, which is why I’ve been waiting since yesterday to post this.

To provide a counterpoint to the last post, one of the many, many advantages of entering an international competition is that you get to meet a lot more people you already know, so there’s less time spent being socially awkward. While waiting for stuff to happen, aside from all the expected time spent with the Taiwan team, I also talked to, played games with, and otherwise entertained a whole lot of people I already knew, including my schoolmates (no less than fourteen of them were volunteers) and some of the college students who had shepherded us around during olympiad training.

Which is a good thing, too, because there was a lot of waiting.

First I waited for my teammates; my parents had decided to take me to the hotel (Fullon Shenkeng) directly, since I had a lot of stuff, and I had arrived early. This took about an hour, after which we had lunch. Then I waited for the hotel to give us our room cards, which took about five hours, after which we had dinner. Finally, at night, I waited for the Codeforces system tests. Very nerve-wracking. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Advantage #2 of being the home team: you can talk to all of the organizers and volunteers fluently, so you can get them to help you more quickly. Although we waited for our room cards for an obscenely long time, I got the volunteers to replace my pinyin-name-card with a legitimate one that said “Brian” on it really quickly.

Unfortunately, after I talked to a few more people, it looks like they aren’t going to change my name in the database. So if anybody reading this chances to look at the IOI live ranking and is unable to find me, look for the first name “Po-En”.

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[IOI 2014 Part -1] Prelude.hs

Indexing debates are boring. Especially when you can just flagrantly disregard all concerns about memory safety (because C++ never had any in the first place) and write
int _array[100008], array = _array + 2;
I do this alarmingly often; hence, the title. Hashtag firstworldanarchists. Three ± 1 cheers for Haskell arrays.

Anyway. One of the disadvantages of entering an international competition as the home team is a lack of time to completely absorb the idea that what is about to happen is a Big Thing. There was lots of time before the other international competitions I went to to spend uncomfortably on airplanes trying to adjust for the timezone difference.

Not so for a competition in one’s own country. Right up to the night before entering the hotel that marks the beginning of everything, I’m still at home, furiously refreshing the AoPS IMO fora and Facebook for news (!!!), lazily solving trivial Codeforces Div II problems with pointless point-free Haskell one-liners, and blogging. (There’s more, but I kind of want it to be a surprise.)

Anyway, let’s set the rules. Well, there’s only one, honestly:

  • While I blog this thing, I will be totally fine with small spelling and grammatical errors, small lapses in logic and flow, and the like, so I will not feel compelled to reread every post two hundred and fifty-six times before deciding that it’s not good enough and I shall publish it later, much later. I can always stealthily fix such issues and pretend they never happened. I mean, I derive more utility from posting after events as immediately as possible than from repeatedly editing a post, even if my future self suffers from akrasia with regards to the matter.

That’s all I’d like to say; I’m already editing it far more than I hoped to. Here is a countdown to Day 1 of the actual contest, because given the schedule, the opening ceremony seems to me a rather arbitrary reference point. Let the suspense begin.