Shortlog - a log of everyday things

View the past: 2013 2012 2011 2010

Atom Feed

Entries from 2013

2013-01-17 | 6 comments

It's about time I started blogging again, don't you think?

Today I fly out for the MIT Mystery Hunt, the annual rendition of the original puzzle hunt. I'm quite excited, since I get a huge rush from solving puzzles. I'll be hunting with Death From Above, as per usual.

This is somewhat complicated by the fact that somehow, I wound up being on pager duty for AeroFS this weekend. Hopefully nothing falls apart; I spent most of yesterday tracking down why one of our services kept being unresponsive. (For the curious: enabling epoll and SMP in the Erlang VM makes for huge performance gains. Why the default values for the distribution are set to "disabled" baffles me.)

On the upside, I also have a dozen AeroFS t-shirts to give away. They're super comfy!

UPDATE: landed in Boston. My CharlieCard still had fare on it.

2013-01-28 | 1 comment

I didn't get around to writing this until recently - I had a busy week at work, which was not made any easier by the sleep-dep stockpiled from the previous weekend. C'est la vie.

The MIT Mystery Hunt was great! It was rather exhausting, though - clocking in at over 72 hours, it was the longest Mystery Hunt ever. As usual, I hunted with Death From Above.

A lot of puzzles were beautiful. There were also some puzzles that appeared to have not been playtested at all. I won't complain too much; this was the first hunt Manic Sages (the organizers) wrote, and I've been in the "Oh gods no one is possibly going to finish our hunt" boat before. To their credit, they took note of the challenges that teams were facing at runtime and tried to adapt things to help the teams continue to progress. In the end, they wound up giving away copious puzzle answers and cutting the last meta and possibly a decent chunk of the endgame, but by that point I think we were all too tired and braindead to really care.

A couple of my favorite puzzles that I worked on:

  1. Halting Problem, a puzzle in which you had seven programs written in less-common programming languages performing naive computations of ridiculously large problems. I called in Matt to help me with the Erlang one, and we figured out that it was in fact doing a naive factoring of the RSA-768 challenge. Quentin and I spent far too long staring at the C++ templates before we figured out exactly what sort of connect-four game it was playing, and the Perl program computed the number of primes less than 100 million with regex.
  2. Git Hub, a puzzle which mapped the Boston MBTA with a git tree.
  3. Treasure Island (meta) - minesweeper satisfiability puzzle, with a very cute extraction.

A couple I looked at and liked but didn't really contribute much to the solution:

  1. I CAN'T SPELL YOU, a puzzle using a bunch of Unicode character names
  2. Infinite Cryptogram
  3. Grandson of the Realm of Unspeakable Chaos, a puzzle which used an evolution of a constructed language (Chaotic) from the 2008 hunt which was itself an evolution of a constructed language from the 2001 hunt. Robin Deits worked at this one for practically 24 hours; by the end of it he was just about fluent in both Chaotic and its evolution (which we termed NewLang).
  4. In the Details - a recursive word search, in which each each letter expands into a 2x2 square of letters, and the last word is 86 levels deep.

This was the best year ever for Death From Above. Historically, we've gotten 11th place (three years in a row!), but this year, we were solidly in the top three, and even in the lead at certain points. We were quite proud of our showing, and I look forward to seeing what we can pull off next year. Yes, I rather enjoyed Hunt. :)

It was also delightful to see all my friends at MIT again. It's a little bittersweet - the folks I met in the spring of 2010 are all either graduated or seniors now, and soon they'll move on and I probably won't see them again (unless they return for Hunt). But I guess that's just how things are. It feels a little like graduation all over again. Visiting the dorms makes me feel both old and young at the same time - it's always a joy to observe and be a part of the unique dynamic, but a little sad to think that I can't have that life any more. East Campus is full of entertaining characters.

I'm not used to feeling old. It's a weird feeling.

2013-03-08 | 0 comments

Last night, I was walking along the sidewalk and stopped at a light waiting for the walk signal. A party of three (one guy, two ladies) was talking, and I overheard the guy mention randomly breaking out singing the Pokémon theme song.

He then proceeded to do exactly that. Of course, I joined in. Everybody laughed and sang along.