Tuesday, 2 July 2013

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day Three

This is Day 3 in a series. You might want to check out the previous day, or start at the beginning.

6:30am breakfast is not what I wanted to hear, but it happened. Breakfast was in the hotel again, and immediately afterwards, it was off to the buses to go to the arena for the Dress Rehearsal. I say arena because it is being held in a hockey arena on the main floor. There are sheets dropped from the ceiling, and tables set up everywhere. 120 teams takes up a lot of space.

The reason that we have a dress rehearsal is not for the contestants primarily. Mostly, it is so we can test the system that they have set up for the contest, to make sure that everything is working, and that everyone knows how to use it properly: how to submit problems, how to find documentation, how to print, etc. When we got there, we were in the waiting area off to the side. For some reason (I think they were just stalling for time), they allowed teams to come up and get their picture taken with the cup. I'm not sure why you would if you didn't win it, but hey. There were a lot of people who wanted to, so I guess it makes sense.

You aren't allowed to bring anything onto the competition floor aside from the clothes you are wearing, and they made it very clear that that was the case. Twice they made the "Take out your phones now... Oh wait, you aren't allowed to have them!" joke. Twice. Anyhow, after getting settled into our workspace (where you can't touch anything until they say to!), the practice competition started. There were a bunch of problems, all of which were a really easy level. That doesn't mean that we sloved them all, but we had the ability to solve them all, or at the very least, knew what we needed to do to solve them.

The view of the floor of the arena where all of the work stations were set up.
The basic layout of the contest floor
The practice was just a 2.5 hour deal, and when it was over we went to the smaller area next door for lunch. Lunch was very poorly planned though. I think that the room was set up fine, but when the line formed, it did it wrong. The entire line of tables in the middle where the food was was one long line going in one direction the whole time. It started at the desserts, moved past the drinks, then hit the salads, then the soups, and finally the main dishes. I do not have enough hands to carry two plates, a bowl, and a cup, so I basically settled for a drink and a dessert plate with some spaghetti on it. The line was so long, it started at the OPPOSITE END of the room from the start of the tables (the long way). When people finished grabbing their food, they were at the same place that the start of the line was. It was bad.

During lunch, they showed the results of the ICPC Challenge. This is the competition where in the month before the contest, teams could create an AI player for a platformer game that was posted online. The AIs would then be pitted against each other in a double elimination tournament, with the top four teams receiving prizes. Most teams didn't submit anything, and sadly we were in that category ourselves. We actually wrote an AI, but due to time zones and the confusion therein, we failed to submit it on time. It was fun to watch though, because they showed each of the matches, and you could find a team and root for them. A Canadian team (University of Lethbridge) actually got fourth, which is pretty solid.

After lunch, we went back to the main arena for Q&A time about the practice session and for a bit more practice. Then at 3:00, the excursion for the day started: Peter and Paul Fortress. It's an island fortress in the river, with a massive church in the middle of it. There was a whole bunch of things to do there: a wax museum, a museum about the history of St. Petersburg, a prison to explore, you could walk along the outer wall, and of course you could tour the church. While we were walking along the wall, there was a fighter jet demonstration. There were two squadrons doing fancy formation flying overhead. It was kind of surprising to see, but it was really cool.

A stone with the date 1703 carved in Roman Numerals in it at Peter and Paul Fortress.
It's an old fortress
A view if St. Isaac's Cathedral from the top of the wall of the fortress.
You can almost see the fighter jets
The wax museum was cool, because I got to see Lenin, as well as Catherine the Great and Peter I. I think I found Dostoevsky, but it was really hard to tell who was who. All of the signs were in Russian in Cyrillic font, so it's kind of hard to decipher. We didn't tour the church because we didn't have the energy anymore, but we did sneak in the side door and take a look around the main room. SO MUCH GOLD... If I were to describe it, I would say that it was excessively ornate. Very beautiful though.

Vladimir Lenin, recreated in wax.
The interior of the cathedral in Peter and Paul Fortress, absolutely covered in gold.
A model of the scaffolding that was used to raise the massive column in the courtyard of the Hermitage.
This is how they raised the massive column
in front of the Hermitage
We wanted to visit the space/rocket museum on the island, but unfortunately that area was blocked off, so we hit up the prison, and then went back to the buses to go to diner. After diner, we were so tired that one of us just crashed and immediately went to sleep. I'm sure that he's going to feel much better tomorrow that I will, but I did get to go out and explore St. Petersburg a bit with the rest of my team. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab my camera, so there are several shots that I would love to show you that I can't. Trust me, I'm more sad about this than you are.

Anyhow, on the walk, we wandered over to a church with a massive entry courtyard. It had massive pillars towering high into the sky, and a fountain in the middle of a green space in between them, right in the middle. We also wandered over to the Church of the Saviour on Blood, which is by far the most impressive exterior of any church I have ever seen. Apparently it was build as a memorial to the bombing of Alexander II by his son. The architect went around all over Russia to gather inspiration for it, and he used all sorts of styles everywhere on the building. There are so many colours and shapes... It really is a sight to behold. Go look it up.

From there we wandered into a park that happens to back into The Russian Museum. It's an enormous building in terms of length, and seeing it up against the grass and trees in the middle of the city was really quite the effect. After wandering across the canal, we found another park. This one had an eternal flame in it, as a memorial to the soldiers who died in World War I. Well, I assume that that is what it was for. All I could read was the dates 1917-1918, which makes sense. We then headed back to the hotel, wandering past the Hermitage and St. Issac's Cathedral on the way. It was perfect weather today, rather than the heavy rain that it's been the entire time that we've been here, so it was nice to be able to go out for a walk. I just wish that I had my camera...

And that's how the day ended. The next morning is 6:30 breakfast as well, and then... the World Finals.

Full Series

Day 1: Travel
Day 2Opening Ceremonies
Day 3Practice Competition
Day 4Competition Day

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