Off-Topic 004 : UIUC2003 Part I

21Oct03 (Monthenor): I have returned! I have cleaned myself and my room, and am setting pen to monitor to write of my travels once more. It is very messy, and maybe you can't read it from there, but it needs to be done before dream blends with reality.

First off, here's another happy thought: my koala shirt is up and available for sale. Hopefully Adult Swim will not sue me, and if they do, it will be ruled outside of their copyrights. Be kind, wacky corporate behemoth!

More importantly, another treasure from the Unicorn Jelly forums: Is there room for Poko in a heart stuffed with muffins? Be sure to start with the archives, or it will make even less sense (if possible).

UIUC 2003

"This Time, You Can Punch Me in the Gut"

As you may remember from last year, the comic disappeared for a week that I might partake of the UIUC conference at my birthplace of Urbana, Illinois. Well, not exactly my birthplace. I'm reasonably certain I was born in a hospital. But as a second choice, UIUC campus would make a hell of a natal facility.

Also returning from last year, there are eight GerbilMechs Shameless Advertising Self-Gratification Cards hidden in the area immediately surrounding UIUC. 2 Bodies, 2 Carls, 2 Wais, a Doctor, and a Monty/Morgion combo.

My original stream of consciousness is in plaintext, with my later editorial commentation in brackets.

-- 16Oct2003 : DRIVE-IN MOVIE --

0900: Gone. On time, for once. We've only gone about two miles, but it's been a flawless two miles. [This portion of the road trip brought to you by the letters B and ORING.]

1700: Oh hey, we lost the other van somewhere in Wisconsin. Well, the rooms are under my name, so screw 'em. They get there first, they gotta wait. [As it turns out, this was simply my finely honed Foreshadowing Sense tingling like Spiderman at a octopedal goblin convention. Most of the hours in the van were spent with a laptop or one of our two(!) iPods busting out mad mixes for all to enjoy.]

2145: What, an accident? Looks like somebody got rear-ended on the interstate, so we're all being diverted over an overpass. Hold on. Nobody's getting back ON the interstate. Why are all those trucks taking the little bitch road? Screw it, the interstate is clear as far as we can see...we'll get back on the iState. [The small diversion to the overpass was our first indication that something was wrong. It is tradition that something wintery and evil happens during the ACM trip, whether coming or going. But up until then it had been disturbingly clear-skied. Then we came upon a nearly unmarked slowdown to one lane. It looked like one car had rear-ended another (at non-highway speeds) and there was some minor paramedic shiite going on. All the people looked fine and accounted for. So we followed the line of semis up the overpass. At the top, all the trucks were turning left and taking a little state highway, and we couldn't figure out why. The interstate looked completely clear past the overpass, and the car just ahead of us also bucked the trend and took the onramp. We figured what the hell, at the very most we'll trigger a cop trap and get sent back.]

2146: Shit. THIS is why all the trucks were detouring. We are now PARKED on Interstate 74E just south of 136. [No frelling way. It is rare indeed that I see any kind of horrible city construction or slowdown. My trips generally go smoothly and easily, with one storm per year for UIUC. This was way outta my ken. We were completely at a DEAD STOP, in the gear of PARK, on the INTERSTATE. We were hemmed in by semis as smaller and more nubile nimble cars and sedans flipped amusing U-ies across the median ditch. If only we had heeded the wisdom of the caravan of truckers and taken Highway 130.]

2215: What the hell are we thinking? We have a Vaio and WarGames! With two markers and the amazing flexibility of the Vaio, we quickly have an in-van theater set up. [Lexicon came through with the brainstorm. His sexy borrowed Vaio performed amazing limber feats to prop itself on the cup console. With the DVD of WarGames in hand (a treasure from last year's strong showing), we kill the last hour of our captivity.]

2325: Cops have been turning cars around four at a time and taking them back on the shoulder. We still have no idea what happened to bring traffic to a complete fucking park, but after spending an hour and forty-five minutes surrounded by semis and watching DVDs, we're just ready to get smashed and sleep it off. Yo. [I still haven't found any info on what could possibly close Interstate 74 for over and hour and a half on Thursday, October 16th, but I'll keep "trying". By which I mean waiting for it to fall into my lap from some random Internet source.]

2330: We have decided to create a drink to celebrate this, our latest UIUC driving adventure. We shall name it "74 Parking Lot". Now we just have to decide what's in it. [A foolish attempt. Shnuck's is well-stocked compared to North Dakota, but it isn't the end-all of mixers.]

2345: Okay, taking 150 all the way to Champaign, no problem. [150 was rather small.]

2352: Getting back on the interstate, state highways are teh s uck...except that the onramp is one lane due to construction. Red light for a couple minutes. Back on 74, baby! [At this point it seemed that all the gods of travel were arrayed against us.]

2357: Nothing spells phear like a van full of tired college geeks singing along the chorus of "Beer, Beer, Beer". [And at this point everybody had pretty much the same idea. A night of wussy drinking contests and general camaraderie ensued. What was on? That wasn't the night with King Kong, was it?]

[A thing about the hotel. I thought that it would be the New Revolution in UIUC Housing. It turned out to be Just Ghetto Enough. The tradition of staying in totally shitty rundown hovels is a UIUC tradition that I wanted to break. I found a cheap price on the rooms we needed at a great location (next to Miko's, woowoo!), and since it was a Travelodge I didn't give it a second thought. What I found when we finally arrived, with much apologies to the other van, was a big beefy guy in a camo vest and faded biker Tshirt, jovially taking my credit card number and handing out keys. The office was barely big enough to hold their "continental brekkist" (three boxes of gas station donuts). But for all of its lack of glamor, it also didn't mind us drinking and carousing and coding with doors ajar after midnight. Also, it seemed clean, and the cleaning lady was a no-nonsense but cheery woman. Hell, we even had a small balcony if we needed it. The only thing truly lacking was the towelage. Always remember a towel.]

-- 17Oct2003 : A Reckoning With Two Twigs --

1100: Leaving hotel

1130: Leaving hotel [Okay, for real this time.]

1145: Sure, let's go. Leaving hotel. [Damn you, VH1's Behind the Scenes: South Park!]

Once again, time has no meaning. [The timelessness that I associate with the UIUC trip struck a bit earlier this year. I haven't worn a watch in over two months, as it interferes horribly with my laptop. Thus, once away from the hotel and the laptop, I was adrift, devoid of modern pressures, with only the vaguest of guidelines as to my return. Actually, that's poetic license. I had to be back at 2000 hours for Mechmania rollout.]

Job fair once again sucked. Green St. once again ruled. Thai for lunch. EvoTea split up, poor guy. Wireless in the smoke nook and puzzlehack. [Wow, that covered a lot of ground. Like I said, I was away from the laptop. Job fair sucked again, and possibly harder than ever. It's interesting to watch the economy in terms of how badly the UIUC career connections blow. This year we had three insurance companies, a couple big names that I associate with hardware, and Microsoft. Whoopdee-shit. Green Street was as beautiful a college-oriented experience as ever. I know of nowhere else where we can try to go to lunch at a closed bar & grill, decide on Pizza Hut, and get distracted by a Thai restaurant on the way. Boy, those Thai cook up a spicy-a meatball. Not much for the Thai tea, though. We then tracked down EvoTea, the awesome Internet cafe. We discovered that the cafe portion and computer portion had split up about a block apart, into Evo Cafe and Evo. I guess when they recombine they fight crime in a giant robot or something. But the computers were still decent, if a bit ghetto, and the cafe portion still had drinks with those disturbing tapioca pellets in the bottom. I heartily do not recommend the blueberry milk slush with tapioca pellets. Then we (the team: Monty, Alphi, and DAP, along with Lexicon and newcomer Bullet) hung out in one of the handy outdoors smoke nooks and leeched wireless access until it was time for Mechmania. Sushi actually came after the Mechmania show, but sushi rules all my thoughts of vacation, so we'll cover that next.]

Sushi for dinner, along with two newbies. Everything was awesome: cheez-whiz tuna triangles. [Yeah, Tuna Triangles with cheez-whiz. California Rolls for DAP and Bullet to start off easy with, tuna and eel sushi for the mid-course, Tuna Triangles as the taste surprise of the year, and something called a Dragon Roll which was sushi rolls with avocado and caviar on top. Yowza. Once again, I loved it all, even with the jarring American taste of the cheese. As I was introduced to sushi and chopsticks last year, so were this year's inductees lavished with tips and recommendations. I showed off my much improved chopsticking. This was literally an event I had been training for since last year's fork/soy debacle.]

Mechmania is not only working this year, it appears to be very very complex. As in hard to completely solve in a day. We'll get pathfinding and start running some bot archetypes, but this may come down to pure speed. [Holy Crap. I was blown away by the presentation they put up for us this year. First, the shallow: not only did the conference shirts rock this year, not only did the Mechmania shirts rock this year, but I got to have both without resorting to theivery. Seriously, last year they told us that programmers didn't get the regular conference shirt. Screw that noise. But no, this year we got great swag shirts and a bitchin' contest. Mechmania went back to its roots with a grid-based turn-based battle for resources and domination. This time the grids were hexagonal, and you could build mechs to order, but it still had enough flavor from the Beacon Tweakin' year to give me hope.]

One thing that hasn't changed, though: the first API handed out is woefully incomplete. We can't plan our mechs out in advance because we don't know the cost. Shoot me in the head. [Pretty much. The API, although helpful, did not give us the most crucial bits of information: the point costs to create our force of fighting steel. We know that we start with 1000 bucks, and we know that mech costs are capped at 250, but beyond that we're not entirely sure how the equations for speed, damage, and range work. The three most crucial stats. Curses! So after deciding things like "there will be pathfinding" and "we want to shoot them", we call it an early night.]

Friday: The Exciting Conclusion! Don't miss the most amazing Mechmania contest ever, except that you already DID! You totally suck!

22Oct03 (Monthenor): Can you believe this? Can you believe we can't call software that spies on your browsing habits and reports it to a third party or parties "spyware"? If any spyware is spyware, Gator is spyware. On a somewhat related note, there is precious little info on the next James Bond, Super-Adman movie.