This post is backdated, on the grounds that I should have written it on the 17th and I have a decently large post for the 18th to write as well, and that they're kinda disjoint topics. Some people might say that my blog engine should support multiple posts per day, and they'd be right (it is, in fact, on my roadmap), but that feature is not at the top of my priority list right now, and no features have gotten much attention lately, so they can deal. So, without further ado: my Boston trip.
Just because it deserves a paragraph of its own for emphasis: I've had an absolutely fantastically awesome time the past few days.
As previously mentioned, I successfully made it up to Boston. That night, my aunt and I went and visited my cousin Erik, his wife Julie, and their two children and two cats. Julie made a completely delicious chicken pot pie from scratch, which I had several helpings of. Samuel is now able to eat corn, which is exciting as both of the kids have the strangest mix of mutually-exclusive allergies. The kids and I played with LEGOs and rolled a ball, and later that evening I explained how objects fall at the same speed (up to air resistance), complete with experiments involving dropping all sorts of things from arm's length. Julie read excerpts from the Maine Dictionary with the proper accent, and we all laughed and had a merry time.
The next morning, I packed up my effects and accompanied my aunt to a doctor's appointment. It took quite a while longer than she had expected. Fortunately, we arrived at MIT just in time for me to drop off my effects in Death From Above (the Mystery Hunt team I joined) HQ before running over to Lobby 7 for the kickoff event. And oh, what a kickoff. When I arrived, there was a string group playing some procession theme that I couldn't quite place. Lobby 7 was, of course, packed with people, and I managed to nearly walk into Nicole before recognizing her. On the second floor, there was a man dressed up as a preacher. Slowly, the music turned from "generic wedding procession" into "wedding adaptation of the Mario theme," and Mario and Peach arrived on the scene. A hilarious sequence ensued involving Bowser crashing the wedding before the couple could be joined in "holy mushroom-ony" and kidnapping Peach. Hunters would have to help Mario rescue Peach by solving puzzles and defeating Bowser. The hunt began shortly thereafter.
I took a break for a bit to go meet with Michael Bernstein and the other members of the User Interface Design Group. I had the pleasure of joining their 1pm group meeting, where I shared about my work with the Kinect, listened in on their preparations for the CHI 2011 Workshop on Crowdsourcing and Human Computation, and learned about some of the their current focuses.
After that, the next 48 hours or so were dedicated fairly strictly to the Hunt. There's no way I'd be able to do the hunt justice in a blog post, so I shall simply link to the Hunt website and discuss a few of my favorite puzzles. Before I begin, I should note that the hunt had five rounds, each focusing on a different video game - Mario, Mega Man, Zelda, Civilization, and Katamari Damacy. A few puzzles that I either helped solve or just found interesting:
One night of the hunt, my friend Lora from Berkeley IMed me and thanks to Death From Above's awesome organization, it was really easy for her to join in the hunt. She donated her expertise on France to help solve Pointillisme. The more brains, the better!
Another interesting event worth mentioning was when Mark Browning called me. He needed to get to some documents on his computer proving marriage and had only HTTP access. So he called me up and had me SSH into his desktop and symlink his documents folder into his public_html folder so he could find the documents he needed to sell his car. I was happy that I could help my friend in a time of need.
Sleep during Hunt was minimal. I took a couple few-hour naps on the couches in CSAIL (they're quite comfy!) to refresh myself when I started hitting a wall. The rest of the time, I was running on pure adrenaline.
After Hunt ended, I helped clean up CSAIL and vaccuum the rooms we used. I met Bill Reading (who was on the winning team last year, and thus helped run the Hunt this year) at the Hunt wrapup session in 26-100, and he shared all about his trip to Germany for 27c3, which sounded awesome.
And after that, I went back to East Campus, where I dropped off my effects, and then joined a dozen or so friends at the Cambridge Brewing Co. for dinner, where I had an excellent BBQ burger. Upon return, I met up with more old friends, made some new ones, and broke out my Kinect. I got to observe MIT kids making fools of themselves in front of the TV. It was fun and entertaining to watch. Later, we watched How To Train Your Dragon and Wall Street 2, exchanged backrubs, and played Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I took a nap around 8am after a nice girl named Cheetiri made me breakfast. I had meant to visit the 6.270 lab (LEGO robots!) but failed to do so. Maybe next year.
A touching moment: as I was preparing to leave for the airport and giving my goodbye hugs, my friends from EC exclaimed that I wasn't allowed to leave. Even though I'd only shared parts of a single semester with them, they appreciated me and welcomed me warmly, and told me I had to come back and visit again. I was surprised. They all treated me like I was a real MIT alum, which made me feel really special.
I took the T back to the airport. I couldn't remember if I had a CharlieCard in my wallet, so I shoved the billfold up against the reader, and it worked. Guess I still carry one, though I've no clue where.
My flight from BOS to SFO was uneventful. My line at security only had the metal detectors, so I didn't even get a chance to make a statement about the backscatter machines by opting out. Oh well. I moved with purpose once we arrived in SFO and BARELY made the 10:27 BART train out. I arrived home at about 20 minutes before midnight, and found a box on my bed. Assuming it to be Christmas gifts that my parents shipped, I left it alone, took a much-needed shower, ate some dinner, and fell asleep.