ICPC, Christmas And A Lot Of Fun

Well, December was wickedly insane, that is certifiably true now. Lots of work, lots of fun, another trip to South India and meeting up with old friends – it couldn’t have gotten any better. And the best part is, it ironically began with a very frustrating  and disappointing end to a semester. 😀

As mentioned, my end semester examinations graced the beginning of December 2012 (the so-called last month, courtesy the Mayans) and while they went well, certain events I would not like to mention really frustrated me and got me into a semi-depression state. Boy, was I glad when I was in the train back home. That was when things really started picking up. The first week involved mainly two things: Feasting on Mom’s cooking and getting the arrangements done for ICPC-Asia Amritapuri 2012.

While the first task was easy (eating really does help during depression), the second was insane, with me having to co-ordinate with my other two teammates in Surat, that too after we were informed of our selection just a week prior. While one had his brother’s wedding as an obligation, the other simply could not come and dropped out at the last moment. Thankfully, after a few hours of pings, I managed to find another teammate ready to undergo the arduous 30+ hour journey. With a lot of help from family, we managed to mail in the Demand Draft and book the tickets to Coimbatore, planning it such that my teammate could attend his brother’s wedding.

So it was on a great Monday morning, that we set out for what was my 2nd South India trip in 6 months. The train journey was interesting to say the least. I managed to find out that IIT Bombay students are as desperate for placements as people from my college and made friends with this energetic nine-year-old named Jayant. Jayant helped me enjoy 12 out of the 30 hours in the train and at the end of my journey actually wanted my autograph. 😛  I was humbled to say the least. We landed in Coimbatore on Tuesday evening and were immediately escorted to Amrita University’s Coimbatore campus where we were provided rooms and dinner. After dinner, we met up with others from our college and spent a good chunk of the night partying it out.

We all were pretty clear that none of us were in any shape to mount a serious challenge in the ICPC as each of us had been busy, myself with PG applications and research, so we decided to make use of the opportunity to enjoy ourselves thoroughly. It started with some late night Gangnam Style (and we even recorded a hilarious video) and pulling each other’s legs. The next day, after the drudgery of the opening ceremony and registration, along with the practice round, we spent the afternoon playing cards. After snacks in the evening, we met up with some Sophomores from our college and included them into our band of Merry Men. We went as a group for the special banquet dinner in honor of the participants and quite literally ate out of one plate. All the while, we discussed everything from college to love-lives to department trips, constantly cracking each other up. The sophomores really had a gala time then. The fun continued in our rooms later with more rounds of card games to some light music in the background. Man, it was awesome!

The contest was a bag of bad luck, in essence, for us. Well, we still haven’t found the error in one of our codes even though we threw a hundred different test cases at it, so I just won’t talk about the contest. We did manage an All India Rank of 64, not bad considering our abysmal preparation. Finally, the contest ended, and we had to leave so Jay could attend his brother’s wedding. We caught the late night train and I reached home at 6:30 am two days later, with my previous night’s sleep completely ruined. I whiled the day away in that sleep deprived state.

Come Sunday. Old school pals planned a meetup and we went to the most amazing pizza joint where we ate like there was no tomorrow (funny, considering it was the 23rd of December) and still had to only pay a bill of Rs. 130/person. Epic, I tell you. We were meeting after almost a year and it was amazing seeing all those old, familiar faces. Even better was 4 days later, when all us interns in Microsoft, who were based in Mumbai, met up at TGI Friday’s. Seeing those guys, with whom I had such a great time in the summer, really brought back lots of memories. Of course, we did create new ones, taking pics and tagging our intern friends in other cities to make them feel jealous. We reminisced about our brilliant summer, sharing previously unrevealed stories and reminding each other of everyone’s eccentricities.

In the middle, I celebrated Christmas with my family. We attended Midnight Mass as we always do and really thanked the Lord for his blessings upon us. Hopefully, you had a Merry Christmas as well. 😀 The icing on the figurative Christmas cake was the roast chicken special that my mother managed to bag. Surely enough, there were only bones once we were done going through it. A similar scene was for New Year’s with Dad and I doing all the preparation for a family evening on the 31st. I got a Cranberry flavored Breezer and set up Mutt, what more did I want?

In terms of work and computers, I managed to complete one of my Machine Learning projects while in the train back and also worked on some other things in the meanwhile, such as configuring PintOS, generating and publishing my own public-private cryptographic key pair, and setting up Mutt on my machine to allow me to forevermore communicate securely with my family friends. These are the main reasons I have put this post here and not on my other blog.

Concluding, what was supposed to be the last month of mankind, turned out to be a pretty good one (barring unrelated and unfortunate incidents in Newtown and New Delhi). College has officially resumed and I am back to the daily grind, but it is comforting to know that not only were we 3 the only teams who truly enjoyed the ICPC, but I caught up with family and friends and managed to make the most of my vacations, just like in the summer.