Saturday, August 27, 2005

vacation time!

I'll be leaving tomorrow morning for my yearly week vacation at the chess tourney of Imperia. Last year I prepared a lot for the tourney and (with some luck) won my division; it was also the first time I won a tourney. This year I did basically nothing... so it's gonna to be a quite terrible performance :-D
I actually don't care much... it's more just sleeping a bit more, going around in a nice place near the sea and getting very good even is somewhat excessive food for a week. I also decided I won't go running every morning this year; I'll just chill out a bit more.

I finally finished Chopin waltz op 64/2 and I just started looking at nocturne op 9/1. It actually looks much harder than I thought by hearing the piece: the dreamy out of time part for the right hand is accompanied by left hand broken chords I can barely take; I've no idea if with exercise I'll be able to get them easy enough to forget about them and have them playing themselves... we'll see.
Also I didn't notice hearing the piece the acciaccatura with a two octave and half interval. I actually wonder what that really means; for what I know I'd say that such a thing is impossible to play for a human being...

Monday, August 22, 2005

you lose!

Whoops... in the second competition on TopCoder I slipped badly and fell on my back. I only "solved" the two easy problems but the first solution had a off-by-one error ('<' instead of '<=') and in the second I was way too slow.
Actually it was shocking to see how many failed the first problem and not by off-by-one errors like I did but with true broken logic (missing cases) or doing redundant illogical tests (that didn't harm, however... melius abundare quam deficere has never been my view in programming, but apparently it pays off).
It was anyway fun... I want more of those :-). There's also an italian that performed extremely well (about the time taken to complete the "easy" tests... even if it's one of the many cases of pointless checks).
On the second problem I was lucky to have it actually correct. I implemented a working solution, but slowly and an horrible one compared to a few cooler ones I saw. Do this kind of sloppy reasoning in a more complex problem and the 2-secs limit on running time will look like as unsormountable barrier.

It's a pity the online competitions happen at those strange times, but this is what we pay for not living all in the same place. Many italians I know wouldn't be able to compete just because of that problem and the schedule is a problem for me too even if I work close to where I live.

I hope Pisky (the only surviving italian in TCO05) can make it further... he won also $75. From now he'll have a thougher path, including the need to put an alarm at 2.30am to compete (!).

The kind of round that we faced however is exactly what I wouldn't like about real programming. Easy problems and you've to code them in a hurry; and even if the solution is ugly from all points of views, if it works then it's ok. Exactly favoring "do it badly but do it now"; what I think is an horrible philosophy.

There was also an interesting hard problem... i wasn't able to complete it on time and it was probably even more complex than I thought as only 11 of about 650 partecipants were able to provide a working solution.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Recently a friend of mines introduced me to the world of pure programming competitions on TopCoder. I'm not really the fight-at-all-costs type, but I've to say that I like the idea. I tend most often to see the battle (in chess, or in karate, or now in programming) as a fight against imperfection more than as fight against someone else, but I regretfully discovered that looking at standings to see where I ended up is an important part.
May be indeed that in addition to a fight against imperfection there is a component that is the fight against all others, a fight for distinction (but never a fight against someone specific; even in chess I don't see my opponent as an enemy, and this is probably one of the reasons for which I'm not that good).
Anyway I found myself much weaker than I would have expected ... I need to get better at coding (deep inside I know I'm #1 hehehe).
There are parts of TopCoder that I don't like but still it looks to me a wonderful system and a pretty cool way to exercise. It's not like real coding, of course, but I think it's good. A lot of the emphasis is on the speed, but write incorrect code and you are simply out, as you should deserve.
Also it's funny the challenge part where you are allowed to kick out opponents by proving their solution is incorrect (I don't think this happens often, the submitted code will go through a more serious test anyway so there's just no point in submitting a wrong solution - unless you happen to have a fake account and kick it out from a real account to gain points).
I don't like there's no premium for readability and hence the top solutions are sometimes snippets that would get your ass fired being me the one in charge of quality control, but it would be difficult to place an objective measure for readability (readability depends on the reader, probably it's just that I'm too dumb to understand those programs).
Oh... I would have loved to be surprised on another aspect, but it didn't happen. As one could probably guess there is almost no girl even there. It's because of the fight or because of programming ?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

better than real ?

Recently we got a tapis roulant (treadmill) for my mother as the doc told her she should walk at least 3Km per day and she doesn't like the idea of going around like a drone for no reason (except at home I mean).
Of course I ended up giving it a try and I've the impression that running on it is harder than running on the street. I did a 10Km run at 10Km/h and I was really almost dead when finishing (no kidding I was counting the last minutes one by one and telling myself "you can do it.... c'mon! don't give up!").
Actually I'm used to run quite longer at about that speed so this puzzles me... I've no idea if it's the missing of the fresh air flowing in the front of you or if it's being *forced* to keep a constant speed. Anyway I like not having to worry about bad streets any I felt my shoulder and back ok even if I noticed my left knee "feeling" the run a bit at the end anyway.
What was also shocking was the price we paid for it. In the company I work for I think that we wouldn't be able to get such a thing out on the market for five times the price we paid to have it delivered to hour house. Ok the huge numbers they produce in China, ok for the really low labor cost over there... but still there is something that looks wrong to me in that price.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

my school is dead :(

While doing some research for increasing the force of our software department I contacted a few local schools, including the one I got my high school diploma from. At the time that school was very famous and students were coming from distant. I for example was coming from more than 100Km, but there were people coming even from further. In my opinion was a very nice school, with good teachers (oh, well, many of them were good, I mean ;-) ) and good labs; the location is also very nice.
From the lists I got however looks like that in last ten years it lost all of his special qualities, or at least lost all of the students, as the only (few) ones are from very near locations. Probably that is the consequence of the opening of a lot of other schools and of the decision of the parents that traveling shorter is much more important than getting good teachers and good labs.