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Hacking Concurr

Shai came over last night and he, along with Bobby and I, hacked away at Concurr, the web-based space strategy game based originally based on Konquest. The new features include a newly fixed multi-party combat model that once again produced messages (my contribution), a display of a planet’s current upkeep (Shai’s contribution), and a reintroduction of move cancellation (Bobby’s contribution).

After we each completed our task, we played a short game that Bobby won. I still find the game totally fascinating to play — in  games of more than two people, it is very difficult to tell who is going to win until late in the game, because the game is quite well balanced.  I guessed that bobby was going to win about half way through the game, but I wasn’t sure enough about it to conceed the point. The multi-party combat model makes the game much more strategically deep — you can now attack the same planet from multiple places effectively, as long as you ensure that all your ships arrive at the same time.

Key features still planned include an in-game chat interface, integration with Facebook, end-game detection, and an improved user interface.

The Case of Bobby’s Missing Shoes

For the first time ever, I have no classes on Friday. This is very exciting, because it essentially makes every weekend a three-day weekend for me. In the event that I don’t take off out of town, I can still spend the day like I did today:

  • Caught up on sleep
  • Finished up homework
  • Helped roommate Spencer with grad-school admission essays
  • Worked with security partner Heather on stack-smashing exploits
  • Planning to go running with roommate Bobby

The last part didn’t work out because Bobby’s shoes have gone missing. Again. If you see them, let us know!

2009 Resolutions

I wrote down most of these while traveling with my family down to Eugene, but I felt I had to get the 2008 Redux out of the way first. So here are my 2009 resolutions:

  • Complete a marathon
  • Complete an Olympic-length Triathlon
  • Get a better time on a Sprint Triathlon
  • Complete Seattle To Portland bike ride in One Day
  • Visit Australia and Peru
  • Work out (1+ hour) at least once a week
  • Get my Motorcycle certification endorsement
  • Complete my Masters degree with a grade at least as high as my Bachelors degrees
  • Eat slower, smaller portions
  • Eat only until I’m full
  • Curb over-snacking tendencies

2008 Resolutions Redux

Its lime to look back at and evaluate my level of success on my 2008 resolutions:

  • Be more honest with myself and others — partial success. I still too often tell people white lies or what they want to hear rather than just being honest with them. I did have some successes though, especially when I was thinking about this resolution.

  • Graduate Cum Laude — success! I finished with a 3.71 GPA, high enough to be in the top 10% of the college of engineering, and warrant Cum Laude status.
  • Be accepted into the UW CSE 5th-year masters program — Success! I was accepted and in turn accepted the opportunity.
  • Fully heal right knee — partial success. I feel totally confident in the knee — I can land jumps on my right leg, run down hills, lift my full body weight from a squat, and so forth. However, my right leg remains weaker than my left leg, and I have considerable work to do to regain or surpass my former jumping or sprinting prowess, both important aspects of becoming an above-average ultimate player once again. During the fall draft/hat league I participating in, I was pretty disappointed with my performance.
  • Participate in a triathlon — Success! I completed the Seafair Triathlon in June.
  • Get a six pack — abject failure. Maneesh and I both lost this wager, and we each now owe a charity $250. Better luck next time!

On Holidelay, Part II

As I said earlier, the holidays were a lot of fun for me. Not long after finishing up with my school duties, my brother and sister-in-law flew into town from Michigan, bringing the winter weather with them. The Seattle area had one of its largest snows that I can remember, and my parent’s place got more snow than I have ever seen there before. The evening after the arrival of my brother and his wife, the family, my parents’ neighbor John, and my friend Dennis, headed to Benaroya Hall for a presentation of Handel’s Messiah. This is one of my mom’s favorite pieces of music, and every year she listens to it as she decorates the Christmas tree. Growing up around her, I could not help but become familiar with the music myself. Hearing the music live was great. The acoustics of Benaroya hall really are spectacular — the clarity of the sound particularly impressed me. It was a good time.

With no pressing deadlines and lots of snow, the roommates and I got to hang out a lot. Among other things, we headed to Gasworks park with Theo around midnight one night for some sledding action. While we brought along some cardboard (which, it turns out, is pretty ineffective as a sled), we found a large sheet of plastic along the way. After pulling each other around a bit, we made it to gasworks and managed to all pile onto the sheet of plastic at the same time to sled down the hill. It was great fun.

A couple days later was my family’s Christmas party. My sister’s husband couldn’t make it, so I invited along one of my roommates. Every year my mom buys tickets to a local show, and this year was no different as we ended up watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Issaquah’s Village Theater. The show was excellent, and afterward we returned to my parent’s house for food. However, it was beginning to snow hard at this point, so most of the other guests (my sister’s family and other close family friends) took off. The original plan was to hit up Snowflake Lane at Bellevue Square and see the Bellevue Botanical Garden D’Lights, but the snow canceled these plans so we just ended up eating some delicious cheese fondue and hanging out a bit.

I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas Night at my parent’s place. We lost power for about 10 hours, but fortunately we were able to spend most of that time out and about the town. First, we ate a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner at my cousin’s place, then we headed to Mira’s place where we had our traditional get-together with the Konzens. When we recieved word that power had returned to the house, we returned home and went to sleep. I woke up remarkably early on Christmas day despite a late bedtime; mostly I got breakfast and checked out my stocking while waiting for others to wake up. We then commenced the family tradition of chosing presents for each other. My family was very generous with me — among other things, I recieved a new digital camera (a Canon Digital Elph SD 990 IS), a safe, a pull-up bar, a photo book, and a California shopping spree with my mom. What more could a guy ask for?

On boxing day, I hung out with Scott, Theo, and Courtney because on Sunday (the 28th) the family was heading down to Eugene (from whence I sent greetings earlier) and Scott was leaving before I would return. We ended up eating at Scott’s place and then playing in the snow with a boogie board that worked remarkably well. That night, I headed back to my place in Seattle and had a wonderful night with roommates. Saturday, after a lovely morning, I got together with Scott, Theo, and Maneesh and we hung out until hitting up Kat’s holiday party, and then hanging out with Jon. Sunday, we were driving to Eugene, eating luch with the Woods along the way.

After hanging out with my sister in Eugene, we headed back on the 30th, my brother and sister-in-law took off on the 31st, and then came New Year’s Eve. Maneesh, Jon, Theo, Spencer, Bobby, and others, watched the Fireworks at the Space Needle from the Seattle Center, then headed to Eric’s place to play some Great Dalmuti. I finally got to bed around six AM. It was pretty awesome.

On new year’s day, I enjoyed a Sushi party with the Konzens, and on Saturday, I headed to the FIRST Robotics Competition Remote Kickoff Event at Interlake High School in Bellevue, where the 2009 FRC game was introduced. It is an interesting competition that changes the one of the more fundamental parts of the competition: the entire floor, which has traditionally been carpet, has been replaced by a slippery plastic, and traction can only be provided by teflon-infused wheels. Its pretty crazy, but should be fun to watch. After tossing some ideas around and prototyping them Saturday night, Sunday consisted of playing Diplomacy (my first game, in which I made numerous mistakes) at Ananths before heading to my parents’ place for a dinner party. Of course, it started snowing agian, and thus I managed to get my car stuck up in the mountains, opting instead for a ride back home with friends.

Then school started, and my car is still stuck at my parents’ because, even though the snow is gone, the ground is too wet to drive my poor little car on. Fortunately, I don’t really need a car very often, so my life is mostly not impacted. Tomorrow (or, later today, rather) is the first lab for the robotics capstone that I am TAing. It should be good!

On Holidelay, Part I

Currently, I am sitting in the UW CSE building’s hardware lab, waiting for an email that will inform me that I once again have access to the side-room where the Robotics Capstone labs (which I am TAing) will be held. I was granted access before the quarter started, and my access magically disappeared on Monday, the first day of classes. So while I wait for the bureaucracy to catch up, I thought I would get caught up on my blog.

The holidays were a great time for me. Working as a TA meant that my work was totally done by Monday the 15th of December. When I was working for Microvision, my work load would actually pick up after school ended; this was the first time I’ve been at the UW where I actually had a work break during a school break. It was enormously fun. I got to hang out with roommates, my family (my brother was in town for two weeks), play in the snow, work on my own projects, cause trouble around town with all the friends that were in town, and generally have a great time.

This isn’t to say that I did no work between quarters — as I mentioned before, I signed up to be the TA for the Robotics Capstone course. I took the robotics capstone Spring quarter of last year and enjoyed it, but this capstone is significantly different — instead of autonomous slot cars like I worked on, this capstone is about distributed robotics systems. Instructor James McLurkin, a post-doc from MIT here at the UW, built over 100 small robots that together can execute distributed algorithms in the physical world. Some of their behaviors are quite spetacular — a physical bubble sort, clustering and dispersing, leader election and following, and so on. Watching a demo of the system is a fun and exciting experience. Getting back to the point, in order to be an effective TA for the class, I  “had the opportunity” have put in a lot of work over the break with the robots. Once you get to know your way around them, the robots are pretty easy to program with simple behaviors. The quarter should be fun.

At any rate, the rest of this post will have to come later, because I now have access to the room I previously mentioned.

Happy New Year!

I’ve been up to much. All I need now is time.